Coronavirus: is PM trying to achieve the impossible?

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Media captionBoris Johnson: “We are taking the first prudent steps to change our measures”

The Prime Minister is indeed trying to achieve the impossible.

He wants to try to return to normal life, while keeping the virus at bay with limited means to do so.

In the absence of a vaccine, the government depends on controlling any local outbreak.

But the problem is that even with the additional tests that have been in place over the past month, there are big holes in the UK’s ability to remove the virus.

It takes too long to get test results – several days in some cases – and those who need regular testing the most, such as nursing home staff for example, always report that they cannot always access tests.

Our ability to trace close contacts of infected people remains unknown – piloting of the system, which involves the use of an application and an army of contact tracers, has just started on the Isle of Wight.

This means that we are effectively fighting this “invisible killer” with one hand behind our back.

Should we be in a better position?

We are not alone in this struggle, similar problems arise in other countries.

But we are still far behind the best prepared and equipped, like Germany and South Korea.

Would it be different? Should it be different?

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Some argue that we have been too slow to respond to the growing threat.

For example, the United Kingdom relied heavily on a network of eight government test laboratories for most of the two months following the first case of diagnosed coronavirus.

Eventually other partners were recruited, but that meant that until the end of April we could only do 25,000 tests a day.

Others have dug holes in the strategy adopted.

The health care sector, for example, believes that more should have been done to protect nursing homes, given the increasing number of deaths that are reported – it appears that they account for half of all deaths today.

What about locking damage?

Then – on the other hand – there are the difficulties that the locking itself poses.

This has had a huge economic and social impact and has hurt health – referrals for cancer care are falling, while visits to A&E have halved since the start of the epidemic.

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Is it sufficiently taken into account?

Schools in England are given a temporary green light to return, but only in certain years.

Yet children are the least likely to develop severe symptoms – and some evidence suggests that they may not transmit the virus as easily.

It is partly because of this that some people wonder whether we should also be obsessed with keeping the virus infection rate below one – the so-called R number which refers to the average number of people to whom an infected person transmits the virus.

The Prime Minister made a commitment in this regard in his speech, but with the R currently between 0.5 and 0.9, there is practically no room for maneuver to lift the restrictions in place without it exceeds one.

However, last week, academics from the universities of Edinburgh and London released modeling suggesting that the virus could spread in a controlled manner in the healthy population if the vulnerable were protected.

The R could be safely let climb to almost two if this were to happen.

The theory is that the overwhelming majority of the risk of serious illness and death lies with the elderly or those with health conditions.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, one of the country’s leading statisticians and government adviser, said the risk to those under 25 was “trivial”, while researchers at Stanford University said the deaths from people under the age of 65 without preexisting disease were “remarkably”. rare ”.

This means that the initial reaction to the statement – the government plans to release more detailed guidance on its plans on Monday – is a source of frustration, certainly in the scientific and medical community.

Professor Trish Greenhalgh, a health care expert from the University of Oxford, perhaps sums it up best.

She fears that we may now find ourselves in the “worst of both words” by trying to both move forward and kick-start the economy (by encouraging people to return to work) while maintaining the lock-in is indeed still in square.

Employers have not yet determined how social distancing can be incorporated into everyday life, when it is unclear how the public transportation system can cope with more passengers given the reduction of the service that was observed during the lockout.

It is, she says, the maxim “have cake and eat it”.

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