Is lockdown 2 working? Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that there was simply “no other alternative” but to go into a second lockdown as the three tier system wasn’t working, but is the new blanket lockdown across England having the desired outcome?
England isn’t the only part of the UK that has had strict lockdown rules imposed. Scotland has been in a 4-tier system since the end of October and Wales entered a short circuit breaker lockdown on October 23 that lasted for two weeks. Northern Ireland has also had severe measures imposed for the last few months.
The aim of these restrictions is to keep people safe from coronavirus whilst bringing down the R-rate, reducing the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 and reducing the number of coronavirus deaths in the country. The government sees lockdown as “working” when there is a combination of less cases, fewer deaths and fewer hospital admissions.
The World Health Organisation recognises this as well and has previously said that lockdowns, while having a “profound negative impact on individuals”, are largely effective as they “can slow COVID‑19 transmission by limiting contact between people.”
“WHO recognizes that at certain points, some countries have had no choice but to issue stay-at-home orders and other measures, to buy time.” They have said, “Governments must make the most of the extra time granted by ‘lockdown’ measures by doing all they can to build their capacities to detect, isolate, test and care for all cases; trace and quarantine all contacts; engage, empower and enable populations to drive the societal response and more.”
With the end of lockdown 2.0 less than two weeks away, many people are asking: is lockdown 2 working? Will we be out of lockdown in December or will lockdown be extended over Christmas? This is what we know so far…
Is lockdown 2 working in England?
The government’s SAGE committee has said that there is “still growth of the epidemic in England” meaning that for the moment, lockdown is currently not working to stem the number of cases and new infections in England. However, it is also too early to tell whether the current lockdown in England will show better results in the coming weeks.
It has been reported that the R-rate still sits at 1 – 1.2, so any 10 infected people would go on to infect 10 to 12 others. This figure is also increasing daily by 3-4% in England every day.
However, these figures are based on coronavirus cases and data from the last week, rather than being a live depiction of Covid cases in England at the moment. As a result, it’s difficult to say whether lockdown 2 is working yet. It is also difficult therefore to say yet whether we will have significantly loosened restrictions when lockdown ends in early December – or what the lockdown rules will be this Christmas.
Lockdown 2.0 in England was designed to help slow the spread of the virus and to make sure that the NHS wasn’t overwhelmed, as cases had increased massively in recent months. It’s with this urgency that the prime minister and Chief Medical Advisor, Chris Witty, put England into lockdown as the PM predicted, “Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who could get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die.”
On a positive note, the documents released in early November by SAGE revealed that if the lockdown measures were “well-adhered to” the shutdown would likely be able to reduce the R-rate to less than one. So there is hope that this will be the case by the end of November.
There has also been news recently that the newly developed Pfizer vaccine is over 90% effective and could be ready for distribution as early as December this year. This makes the possibility of returning to “normal life” a whole lot more likely.
Did the firebreak lockdown work in Wales?
When Wales came out of their circuit-breaker lockdown, First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said it was simply too soon to tell whether the lockdown has worked in Wales as desired:
“People who were falling ill during the two weeks of the firebreak period were already infectious before the firebreak period began,” He explained, “It is only in the couple of weeks after November 9 that we will see the impact of the firebreak, that is when we hope to see the numbers decline, that is when we expect the number of people going into hospitals to begin to go into reverse.”
Did that happen? The figures would suggest it did. On November 6, the Welsh government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) reported that all data pointed towards “very large falls since the firebreak and to greater effect than local lockdowns with mobility returning to levels last seen in May in some cases.”
This was good news for those in Wales as the firebreak lockdown seems to have done its job – but there was still evidence at the time that the spread of coronavirus was increasing across the country as the R-rate sat between 1 and 1.4.
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at PHW, has urged people to remain vigilant in spite of the early good news: “Public Health Wales strong advises the public to take personal responsibility for their actions and to ensure that we are all doing as much as possible to limit the transmission of Coronavirus.”
“We would remind everyone that Coronavirus is still active in our communities, and therefore this does not mean a return to normality.”
Is lockdown working in Scotland?
While Scotland has not gone into a second lockdown as such, the strict tier 4 restrictions have been imposed since October. It’s thought that the measures so far have not had a good enough effect in reducing Covid cases in Scotland, as positive coronavirus test data reveals that cases are growing in the country.
On November 18, 84,523 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland since March 2 2020. This was an increase of 8075 new cases compared to the week before and an increase of 16,000 cases two weeks before that. There has also been a gradual increase in coronavirus related deaths in Scotland since August 18, when the the death rate in the country levelled out and no one died as a result of the virus for over a month.
In response to the “stubbornly high prevalence” of Covid – as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called it – Scotland is going into an almost full lockdown as of November 20 until December 11.
It’s thought that more than two million people are due to be placed under the tough new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland from the end of November and level 4, the most severe measures, will be in place in 11 different areas across western and central Scotland.
On announcing the new measures, Nicola Sturgeon said, “The current high levels of Covid that we see in western and central Scotland have to come down for three interlinked reasons.
“Firstly, to reduce deaths and serious illness. Secondly, to ensure that hospitals and intensive care units can cope so they can be there over the winter to treat people with Covid and other illnesses. And thirdly to allow for the prospect of people being able to meet up over the festive period without that then leading to much more illness and loss of life as we go into next year. On that last point, we are all desperate for some normality at Christmas and I include myself in that.”
Have lockdown restrictions worked in Northern Ireland?
All the numbers point to the idea that the lockdown restrictions imposed in Northern Ireland on October 19 are working and have limited the spread of coronavirus across the country.
On November 17, there was a total of 400 new coronavirus positive tests across 13 different regions of Northern Ireland. This is compared to 739 new cases the week before and 666 new cases the week before that. However, it’s a huge drop from the 1046 cases that were diagnosed on October 19, the day that Northern Ireland increased their lockdown restrictions.
The measures put in place in October were to limit social mixing, as it’s the main way that the virus spreads within communities, and it looks as though it might have worked. Especially as, according to First Minister Arlene Foster, the R-rate had also been reduced to 0.7 which was lower than other devolved countries.
It’s now thought that cases are back on the rise, however, and the Health Minister Robin Swann warned earlier in the week that new restrictions would come into play soon. The chief medical officer for Northern Ireland has also suggested that there will be more restrictions before Christmas.
Arlene Foster already extended the lockdown restrictions in the country for another week but promised that a partial reopening of the hospitality sector would follow.
“We finally got an agreement in relation to the way forward. I had worked throughout last weekend to secure an agreement on a way forward for Northern Ireland to take us out of the four week lockdown.” She said in an update.
“Sometimes compromise doesn’t come easy and it has to be fought for to secure it. The changes are well publicised and we now have dates for all of the sectors now agreed and the greatest tools still remain in dealing with this virus and our common fight against this virus.”
Most recently, however, it was announced that Northern Ireland will go into a circuit breaker lockdown as of Friday November 27. Schools will be allowed to stay open but non-essential retail will have to close and so will the hospitality sector.
So is lockdown 2 working for England? It’s too early to say just yet it seems but back in August, England was experiencing the lowest rate of transmission since the start of the pandemic after the first lockdown began to ease, which means there’s certainly hope that lockdown 2 could do the same. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also all seen positive results from their lockdown restrictions so far.