First of all, credit where it's due - the government have moved much further than seemed conceivable a few short days ago when they were still talking openly about the desirability of sitting back and allowing 60%+ of the population to be infected. What's been announced is really lockdown-lite, though, and experience from countries like Italy and France strongly suggests that people will exploit the weaknesses in the rules, and that even more stringent measures will then have to be brought in to achieve the intended effect. You're still likely to see large numbers of people out and about in the morning as if the lockdown hasn't happened, and if challenged by the police they'll just claim they're out on their permitted 'one daily period of exercise'. We'll just have to see if Boris Johnson is determined enough to close the loopholes in the way that will almost certainly prove necessary.
But an even bigger issue is the glaring contradiction between the government's actions and their words. The Imperial College paper which proved such a turning point made crystal-clear that 'mitigation' (ie. an enormous managed epidemic) was no longer a viable strategy, and that 'suppression' would have to be attempted instead - ie. keeping the number of cases as low as possible by means of drastic social distancing measures, and then holding on for a vaccine. The actions the government have taken over recent days are consistent with a suppression strategy, and yet their language remains that of mitigation. Although Boris Johnson didn't specifically use the phrases "lower the peak" and "flatten the curve" in his TV address, he did use words that appeared to have a very similar meaning. And as for the Blighty Knows Best duo of Vallance and Whitty, they've carried on talking without reservation about a mitigation strategy as if nothing has changed at all, while insisting that they're aiming for no more than 20,000 deaths - something that the Imperial paper adamantly stated would only be possible with a suppression strategy. It really doesn't make any sense.
The obvious way out of this mess would be for the government and their advisers to drop their superiority complex and actually start listening to the World Health Organization's central recommendation of mass testing and contact tracing, which has proved so decisive in turning the tide on the epidemic in both China and South Korea. Incredibly, this New Scientist piece reveals that the scientific advice the government has been receiving in recent weeks has completely ignored the whole concept of test-and-trace. Not rubbished it, not advanced reasons for why it might not work, but simply ignored it. The arrogance of taking it as read that the central recommendation of the relevant international body isn't even worthy of discussion is just breathtaking.
Instead the government apparently intend to eventually ramp up testing but without contact tracing, which makes no sense at all. It seems the main purpose of the testing will be to attempt to prove Whitty's pet theory about there being a very large hidden number of asymptomatic cases out there, and if that happens to get those people back to work - ie. the 'solution' the government have in mind still appears to be a solution for the economy, not for people's health. But let's hope a bit of common sense creeps in at that point. Even if there isn't the manpower for proper contact tracing, it's not beyond the wit of man to find ways in which the public could do some of the work themselves. If someone tests positive during the mass testing, they could be urged to have a friend or relative ring round their close contacts and suggest that those people should be tested as well. In that way, the chains of transmission might gradually start to be broken.
Oh, and let's knock on the head Whitty's repeated 'truthy' claim that there's no point in any country trying to suppress an epidemic that is almost everywhere in the world. The virus does not fly across oceans on its own propulsion - if it's successfully pushed back in the UK it could then be kept at bay with suitable quarantining arrangements until a vaccine arrives. It's just a question of whether the will is there to actually get on top of this thing as the South Koreans and Chinese have done, or whether the government are still hankering after the impossible goal of 'managing' a mass epidemic with a mortality rate that Scotland's Chief Medical Officer now estimates to be 1.4% - much, much higher than Whitty 'confidently' predicted a couple of weeks ago on the basis of his dud modelling.
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For anyone who wants to know more about the crucial role that contact tracing played in stemming the Chinese epidemic, let me once again recommend this excellent interview with the WHO's Bruce Aylward.