These are two of the big questions that many ask themselves after the government has introduced “support bubbles” for those living alone.
There may be a clue in the latest documents published by SAGE, the government’s scientific advisory group.
Research conducted by behavioral specialists for SAGE suggests a “gradual” introduction of bubbles.
We are currently in phase 1, where someone who lives alone can now bubble with another household.
Science describes this option as 1-n, and modelling data show that this does not R rate above one. In other words, this kind of bubble will not increase the rate of spread of the virus.
The next step is Phase 2, known as 2-n, where a two-person household can join another household. For example, two grandparents could bubble with their grandchildren.
Sage’s opinion indicates that this could occur “if no epidemiological adverse events” occur during Phase 1.
Basically, if R can be kept below one, we could with “cautiously and properly prepare” move on to the next phase.
It’s the same advice to move on to phase 3, when a bubbling household with one person can add a bigger household into their bubble.
Several factors determine the impact of bubbling on the epidemic. They understand, the size and nature of bubbles, how many households create bubbles and how people in bubbles stick to the rules.
The rules are important because even small gaps in the bubbles would create a “significant risk of increased transmission.”
A gradual phase means that the measurement could be reversed if a second wave occurs.
SAGE documents acknowledge that decisions about whether or not to bubbles could “create friction and fragmentation” between friends and families.
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As an alternative, they suggest allowing small groups of people to meet outside, provided that social distancing occurs.
Although SAGE documents provide a framework for the expansion of bubble groups, they do not suggest a timetable.
It will be a decision for politicians.