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Is It the Time For the UK Lockdown to Be Lifted and How Likely Is It to Be Reimposed?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 is continuing its spread across the globe, with more than three million confirmed cases in 185 countries and more than 234,000 deaths reported to WHO.

As of 1 May 2020 there are around 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Europe, around 200,000 in Eastern Mediterranean, around 30,000 in Africa and around 55,000 in South-East Asia respectively. The United States of America has around 1.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 with the world’s highest death toll of 65,000 at present.

Experts say that the global economy has suffered greatly as a result of lockdown measures in a bid to slow down the pandemic and save lives. Millions have lost their jobs and the world faces the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The number of people suffering the effects of severe hunger is likely to double according to the UN World Food Programme.

European death toll and lockdown lifting

The SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 started spreading across the globe at the end of 2019. It is thought to have originated in a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. There are a lot of unsolved mysteries around it and the symptoms and impact it has on the human body. More about it can be assessed here. A SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was declared by the WHO on 11 March 2020.

Since then Europe has seen one of the worst times in history with Italy having a death toll of 28,000 as of 1 May 2020, the UK around 27,000, Spain 25,000, France 24,000 and Germany around 7,000 respectively. However, it appears that the worst hit European countries have passed through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic as the number of deaths is falling in each. Each country is now deciding how to move out of lockdown measures and sort of “go back to normal”.

“Britain has reached the peak” and awaiting a lockdown lifting

On 30th April 2020 Boris Johnson declared “Britain has reached the peak” of coronavirus and is now on a downward slope. He is still to unveil the plan to get the UK economy moving.

The nation is waiting for the plan to exit the lockdown imposed in the UK which is at present in its full effect.

Lessons of the Past

If we look back at the history of other pandemics and outbreaks such as the Spanish flu, swine flu, etc., it appears that the second wave always claimed more lives than the first one.

China reported the outbreak to the WHO at the end of December 2019 and the state of pandemic was declared on 11 March 2020. When Italy went in lockdown due to a surge in cases, the UK still remained open. Italian colleagues warned us that we would see the same in the UK hospitals as they were seeing in theirs at that time. The precious weeks in January, February and March 2020 were lost. It is now debatable if by locking down earlier we could have prevented the spread of COVID-19 to the extent it has spread and reduced the death toll in the UK.

Europe turned out to be less prepared for the infectious disease outbreak such as SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 than countries such as China and South Korea that have previous extensive experience of handling the SARS that also originated in China.

Europe faced the PPE and ventilator shortages as well as a lack of medical staff in numerous cases for various reasons. This article goes into more detail about these issues and shortages.

There are a lot of lessons for us to learn from our neighbours and other countries which turned out to be more experienced in handling such outbreaks.

How Likely Is a Second Wave of a SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 in the UK?

We are now past the peak of the pandemic with the death toll of around 27,000 as of 1 May 2020. However, there is no guarantee that there will not be a second deadly wave of COVID-19 as lockdown measures are lifted because still to date there is no vaccine invented or the drug to prevent the outbreak.

We are only learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its impact on our bodies as we go along. We are still testing drugs to see which ones of the ones we already have in our arsenal could successfully treat those who have contracted SARS-CoV-2 and are now down with COVID-19.

60% of people need to be infected with COVID-19 for herd immunity to kick in according to the experts in the field. The UK population as of 2019 is around 67 million. 60% of people in the UK population is therefore over 40 million of people would need to contract and recover from COVID-19. So far 171,000 people have had COVID-19 as a confirmed diagnosis. We are still behind with testing and are not very likely to hit the target proposed by the government for a number of reasons.

Moreover, it is not clear at present if there is a lifelong immunity to SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19. This means that it is still a mystery to scientists if having contracted the virus and recovered from it you would have a lifelong immunity to it and would be in a position not to get reinfected, as discussed here.

What makes things trickier is the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has a long incubation period meaning that you only display symptoms of contracting it after a few weeks. This exposes healthy individuals to a great risk of being in contact with someone infected unaware of it and a high likelihood of getting infected themselves. As a result, the number of people with whom the infected has been in contact and who are now also potentially infected climbs every day.

These factors make it difficult to test and isolate those infected. There are also people who are asymptomatics and therefore do not display any symptoms-only testing could reveal if one is infected.

Is There a Way Out?

This pandemic is likely to have an impact on how we go about our lives for years to come, especially from the economic point of view.

Reshaping the labour market, education system as well as entertainment sector is inevitable in such circumstances. We need new approaches to different sectors of the market to enable us to continue to make a living and still have a life even under such circumstances.

Lifting the lockdowns and increasing human interactions will most likely come at a cost of human lives due to a fresh surge in infections.

We have to be very cautious as to when the lockdown should be lifted and have an emergency plan in place on how to reimpose the lockdown quickly and efficiently if, and most likely when, the second wave of SARS-CoV-2 comes in so as to save as many lives as possible.

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