Coronavirus: ‘Segment and shield’ only way to lift UK lockdown
Strengthening protection for people shielding, while easing restrictions for everyone else, is the only immediate way to safely lift the UK's coronavirus lockdown, researchers say.
They say people could be sorted into three groups by risk – the most vulnerable, those caring for or living with them and everyone else.
It is not pain-free or perfect, they say, but could lift curbs for many yet still protect the NHS and save lives.
Their unpublished work uses modelling.
Scientists use modelling to study and compare likely outcomes of different scenarios – in this case, how to reverse the lockdown without causing a huge surge in coronavirus infections and deaths, the "second peak" experts fear if restrictions are lifted too fast or too soon.
The study does not detail which exact measures should be lifted and when, and assumes there would still be some social-distancing strategies – including the 2m (6ft) rule – in place for everyone throughout.
Their findings, which are being submitted for peer review and publication in a scientific journal, have been made available to the UK and Scottish governments, the authors say.
Currently, everyone in the UK is being asked to stay at home and to go outside for only essential shopping, medical needs or exercise. They can also travel to and from work if absolutely necessary.
In addition, those at the highest risk of serious health complications if they catch coronavirus – around 1.6 million people in the UK – are being asked to shield.
This means not leaving their house at all and strictly avoiding any face-to-face contact with other people who may be carrying the virus.
This shielding was not included in the original mathematical models the government used to inform policy in the UK.
But this new study, by academics from the Universities of Edinburgh and London, looks at what might happen during the next phase of the coronavirus outbreak if shielding could be strengthened while some other measures are relaxed.
How to lift the lockdown
- Those most susceptible to the disease – such as the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions – would still need to be shielded from anyone potentially infected with the virus
- To achieve this, people sharing a house with a susceptible person, as well as care workers and health professionals, would also need to protect themselves from infection and have frequent tests – perhaps even daily – to check they are not carrying the virus
Then, people outside of these groups would be able to come out of full lockdown, as long as they: