That’s it. We are now, at roughly, at the absolute limit of anything we can reopen society without a coronavirus resurgence.
This awareness at the heart of government goes beyond postponing the opening of the bowling alleys, it will define our lives for months to come – and possibly until we have a vaccine.
And I’m sorry to tell parents that, but the biggest question mark now concerns the reopening of schools.
Two weeks ago, Boris Johnson was making plans for normalcy by Christmas.
But since then, the number of confirmed infections has started to rise again.
And the Office for National Statistics, which regularly tests households in England, estimates there are around 4,200 new infections a day, up from 2,800 a week ago.
For the first time since May, we have to deal with an increasing number of cases.
This is not a return to the height of the epidemic in March, when there were around 100,000 infections per day, but it is telling.
Every restriction we alleviate increases the ability of the coronavirus to spread, and government science advisers have always warned that there isn’t much leeway to lift the restrictions and remove them.
The rise in infections is a warning that we are exceeding the limits of lifting the lockdown.
It is clear that we are not a New Zealand, where life has almost returned to normal after their ‘zero-Covid’ strategy.
UK Chief Medical Adviser Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘I think what we are seeing from the ONS data and other data is that we have probably reached close to the limits or limits of what we can do in terms of opening up society.
“So what that potentially means is that if we want to do more things in the future, maybe we will have to do less of other things. ”
The schoolchildren are currently on summer vacation, but we are only a few weeks away from the start of term. Schools are set to reopen fully in England in September and Scotland from August 11.
If the current rules lead to an increase in cases, can we also open schools? It has been the concern of scientists since the lockdown began to lift.
Or if we want to open schools, will we now have to close something else like pubs?
Professor Whitty said these would be “difficult compromises”, but it was important to be “realistic”.
“The idea that we can open everything up and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong,” Professor Whitty said.
The Scientific Advisory Panel for Emergencies, also known as Sage, has previously said the government may need to “change the measures at the end of the summer so that it can keep R below 1 while proceeding to the planned reopening of schools ”.
R is the number of people each infected person transmits the virus to on average, anything above 1 is a growing epidemic.
The fact that cases increase during the height of summer is also of concern. It is uncertain what exactly will happen in winter, but experience with other viruses suggests that the coronavirus will also have an easier time spreading.
A government adviser told me ‘we can get by with a lot in the summer’ and the restrictions may need to be tightened anyway with the seasons.
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