After the weekend saw a slew of images of people hanging out in the UK's parks and categorically not observing the whole 'two metre social distancing' thing, calls have been made for more decisive measures to be introduced by the government, to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. (This has only been upped, after images of a rammed Central Line on the Tube were shared this morning.)
In yesterday's 22nd March press conference, the Prime Minister indicated that the public has 24 hours to get their collective act together and follow the advice – or to face more draconian measures.
'We need to think about the kinds of measures that we’ve seen elsewhere, other countries that have been forced to bring in restrictions on people’s movements altogether,' Boris Johnson said.
'We will think about this very actively in the next 24 hours. If people can’t make use of parks and playgrounds responsibly, in a way that observes the 2-metre rule, then of course we’re going to have to look at further measures.'
London’s central line at 0700 THIS MORNING 🤷🏻♂️ via @sgfmann— Darren McCaffrey (@DarrenEuronews) March 23, 2020
Business as usual?
This is everyone’s failure, governments, TfL and every numpty who doesn’t need to be on that train
WHY ARE PEOPLE NOT LISTENING? pic.twitter.com/DWcSl5t7dZ
So. What might a potential lock-down look like, in this country? While Number 10 has made zero indications of the specifics, other than alluding to the possibility of needing to draft in 'restrictions on people's movements', let's look to what our neighbouring countries have done, to get a gage.
One thing – if the rest of Europe is anything to go by, trips to buy groceries and for short bursts of exercise outside would be okay.
1/ Freedom of movement would be restricted
In yesterday's conference, the PM explicitly called out the lock down measures that have been imposed in other European countries, such as Italy, Spain and France. In these counties, simply upping and leaving your home is not allowed.
2/ Only 'essential' trips might be allowed
In France, interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the only exceptions being travelling to essential work which cannot be postponed or done from home, like medical or food shop staff; shopping for groceries or other essential items (but it’s important not to panic bulk-buy); looking after children or elderly, such as families with shared custody or taking necessary provisions; short trips for exercising yourself or your animal, which must be solo or with the people in your family; health-related appointments.
3/ You might need to produce evidence that your trip is 'essential'
In France, a form must be carried on every trip out, explaining the reason for leaving their home, and failure to produce it when asked by police will result in a €135 fine, a more than triple increase from the €38 fine announced on Monday last week. Journalists and medical workers, who can produce a card, are an exception.
4/ Extra police might be on patrol
Enforcing the above in France are extra police. In Paris, officers are patrolling the streets to dish out the fines mentioned.
5/ There could be serious measures imposed to control the situation
Penalties in Spain are higher than France, with it being classed as ‘disobedience or resistance to authority or its agents in the exercise of their functions when they do not constitute a crime’ or ‘the refusal to identify oneself at the request of the authority or its agents or giving false or inaccurate data to the authorities’, according to Citizen Security Law. It’s punishable by fines ranging from €600-30,000, with 88 arrests reported as of yesterday evening.
Italy’s country-wide lockdown started on 10th, following two days of just the Northern regions, with similar restrictions and fines ranging from €230 — which 40,000 people have already been charged — or a three-month prison sentence.
The UK government, to reiterate, has said nothing about fines, arrests or the threat of prison time – this is purely what's happening in some of our neighbouring countries.
6/ It could last a long time
If these measures are introduced, how long might they be active for? Likely, a decent stint.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, leader of the Health Protection Research Group at Nottingham University, recently told Sky News that the current social distancing measures – working from home if you can; no big gatherings; not going to friend's and family's houses; schools being shut etc – could last 'several months.'
If a lock down is deemed necessary in order to keep this up, then it stands to reason that we'd be looking at similar time frames.
What is the current advice in the UK?
The government is currently asking people to reduce their social contact, with those who are most at risk of the virus urged to self-isolate.
This includes avoiding non-essential use of public transport, working from home where possible, avoiding large gatherings and those in smaller public spaces, such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants and theatres, and avoiding gatherings with family and friends.
Those who show symptoms of the virus, including a high temperature and a new continuous cough, should stay at home for 14 days to avoid the spread of infection, along with all other members of the household. Those who live alone should isolate themselves for seven days.
Everyone has been asked to undertake social distancing measures to help delay the spread of coronavirus, with avoidance of non-essential use of public transport, working from home, and avoidance of large gatherings being among the key efforts.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued clarification on the difference between who should be in household isolation and who should take social distancing measures on Tuesday (17 Mar).
The DHSC said: “From today we are asking all individuals to follow social distancing measures to delay the spread of the virus.
"If you are 70 or over, under 70 but have an underlying health condition (you are eligible for an adult flu vaccine), or a pregnant woman you are strongly advised to follow the below guidance:
- Avoid contact with someone who is unwell;
- Avoid public transport;
- Work from home;
- Avoid large gatherings, religious congregations, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs;
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family particularly if someone has symptoms of Covid-19 or has recently been unwell;
- Anyone who has symptoms or anyone who has been in contact with someone symptomatic should not be in contact with a vulnerable person for at least seven days;
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services."
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?
The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?
As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
As of Monday 16 March the Government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.
The government has also advised against going to the pub, out for dinner or partaking in any socialising with large groups. This has caused a number of closures across the country. Schools will close from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable and exams have been cancelled.
The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home.
Should I avoid public places?
The advice now is to avoid public places and any noon-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111
NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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