Despite the government’s claim no one could have predicted we’d need a second lockdown, we are going back into lockdown, as everyone else predicted. By this point there was little alternative, all restrictions have been driven by the need to ensure the demand for intensive care beds doesn’t exceed supply. The UK has only 6.6 intensive care beds per 100,000 people–compared with 11.5 in the rest of Europe–and we’re running out of them. Had we locked down when the scientists said, starting at a lower level and with schools shut over half term, we’d have reduced the length of lockdown needed, but now it will be a month at minimum.
The UK isn’t alone in facing this pandemic. Looking at other countries we know if you act quickly, limit opportunities for exposure, and have an test, track and trace system, you can avoid repeated lockdowns. The government may blame the public, but it’s not as though the British have a reputation for breaking rules; unclear guidance and a lack of enforcement powers have made it much harder to ensure compliance in the UK.
So what next? The government needs to use this month to deliver the world-beating test, track and trace system they promised so outbreaks can be contained without needing general lockdowns. We need every employee who can work from home to do so indefinitely and ongoing support to enable sectors to remain closed where the transmission risk is high, rather than encouraging people to go out and spread the virus by using them. Yes, the government is accruing huge debts, but the only way to pay them off is through future tax receipts. The longer this goes on, the worse for businesses. Businesses closing pushes up government expenditure on benefits and reduces the tax base. Keeping businesses afloat costs more now, but medium-term it’s the only way the country is going to pay off the debt.
Unfortunately, lockdown also means no Remembrance Sunday services this weekend, but please don’t let that stop you from taking time on Sunday to reflect on all those who have been affected by war.