Looking at local coronavirus lockdowns and if they could work

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Looking at local coronavirus lockdowns and if they could work

A large number of lockdown restrictions are due to be relaxed in England on July 4, making the upcoming Saturday the point where pubs, restaurants and many other places can reopen.

However, the danger of the coronavirus has not passed and the government plans to tackle rises in the rate of infection with local lockdowns where specific areas with problems will have restrictions reimposed.

In theory it should allow most of England to come out of lockdown while keeping a lid on the pandemic in the areas where it is threatening to pose a problem, in practice it might be too difficult to define and enforce.

Choosing the areas to apply a local lockdown and getting people to go along with the return of restrictions will be issues on the path to bringing most of England back to something approaching normality.

Leicester has been earmarked as a potential first area that will be subject to the local lockdown, with Sky News reporting that government officials are recommending restrictions stay in place for another two weeks before the easing due on July 4 is applied to the city.

Will local lockdowns be a good way to bring England out of lockdown and back to normal while preventing the pandemic from becoming a nationwide issue once more?

The Claim

If the government is able to correctly identify parts of the country which are in danger of seeing a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections and successfully implement a local lockdown then it should help save lives and protect from some of the economic damage of the pandemic.

As long as there isn’t a second wave of cases then the worst of the virus has passed and the measures implemented on March 23 with the intention of protecting lives will be putting livelihoods in jeopardy.

Workplaces have been closed and jobs either gone or put on furlough. Many have lost money during the pandemic and the longer the lockdown the greater the economic damage, while the costs the government has incurred to protect jobs and businesses keeps rising.

If parts of lockdown need to be lifted to protect the economy and that can be done without leading to a second wave of coronavirus then that would appear to be the best course of action.

The government doesn’t want half the country to come out of lockdown and discover they’ve got no job to return to while potential employers can’t afford to create new jobs.

The BBC’s health correspondent Nick Triggle writes that the government’s ability to identify Leicester as an area in need of a local lockdown is encouraging.

As long as ministers and experts can work out which areas need special attention then they might be able to keep a lid on the pandemic in areas which could pose a danger.

The Counter Claim

Reopening the country without triggering a second wave of coronavirus is as close to the best of both worlds as it gets, but if handled badly could end up being bad all round as rolling back the lockdown raises the risk of a second wave of coronavirus.

A second wave would likely lead to a nationwide lockdown being reimposed, which would be disastrous for the economy and the businesses which had begun to reopen. Getting local lockdowns right is crucial, but could be very difficult.

Experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have warned government ministers that it will be very hard to get people to accept staying on lockdown when the rest of the country is having their restrictions lifted .

Nobody wants to be stuck on lockdown when the people in the next town or city over are allowed to go back to the pubs from this weekend onwards.

They have also raised concerns that more deprived areas are more likely to need a local lockdown and most likely to suffer from it, further widening the gap of inequality.

It is currently unclear what measures are in place to stop people who are at risk of being placed under a local lockdown traveling to a nearby location that is having restrictions lifted on July 4.

It would be fantastic if local lockdowns were an effective way to keep the coronavirus on the decline while letting everyone else get back to something approaching normal but the reality of enforcing it is likely to be far more difficult.

The Facts

One of the primary concerns with implementing local lockdowns is working out where to draw the boundaries. The borders of local authorities can split streets while regional borders would group rural areas with urban ones.

Some people will feel as though they are being kept on lockdown unfairly, others are expected to find ways to get around the restrictions by traveling to areas where places are reopening. Lockdowns require public trust to be as effective as possible and that will go doubly so for local ones.

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The Joint Biosecurity Centre will be analysing the coronavirus at a community level to determine which areas are potentially in need of a local lockdown.

Details on what a local lockdown would look like are unclear. Specific areas which have been identified as a source of new infections could be asked to close for a period of time, while the upcoming wave of restrictions due to be rolled back on Saturday would likely remain in place.

It is not yet clear whether non-essential shops would be asked to close and public transport reduced.

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