What options does the government have, considering the rapid spread of coronavirus?
Coronavirus – most recent changes
See all of our coverage of coronaviruses.
The government is under increasing pressure to act rapidly to curb the current rapid spread of the coronavirus. It was suggested by ministers that tougher regulations for England might be on the way.
That was Matt Hancock’s strategy in interviews on Monday, with the health minister pointing out that in Tier 3 regions, case numbers are growing especially dramatically. Since New Year’s Eve, 78% of the population of England has been in the most stringent Stage 4. Step 3 was the toughest degree of restrictions previously, with restaurants, cafes and other food service facilities closed except for takeaways, and prohibited any mixing between indoor households and in gardens or private outdoor areas. But Stage 4 goes further, also shutting non-essential stores, hairdressers and other businesses, with gathering in parks limited to two people and banned overnight stays outside the home and traveling abroad. A new Stage 5 or a national lockdown The government has been wary of committing a lockdown in England in March, where people are simply ordered to stay at home unless they do vit vit. One choice may be to implement this, announced as Stage 5, regionally. Step 4 is now so stringent that, beyond what most individuals would deem a lockout, there is no need for additional restrictions. There are rumors, however, that ministers are wary of enforcing too far-reaching restrictions on how often people can leave the house and are especially resistant to the idea of a night curfew, as is the case in France. Closure of all schools for a periodIn high-traffic areas, such as London, the return of many secondary school and primary school pupils has already been postponed for at least two weeks, Unions are calling for all schools to stay closed longer, and unilateral action is being taken by several councils where schools are expected to reopen this week. Children are normally little affected by the coronavirus, and Hancock has pointed to figures that suggest infection rates among teachers are not higher than the national adult average. However, the problem is mainly the degree to which schools help spread the virus more broadly in the community, with students infecting each other with the virus, sometimes without symptoms, and then passing it on to family members. A return to shieldingWith the particularly extreme threat of coronavirus still focused more on the elderly and medically frail, one choice might be to retaliate. While many individuals have been left very isolated by shielding, organisations representing some patient groups have said that a lack of shielding advice could leave some vulnerable individuals with extremely difficult decisions, such as whether to go to work. Mask wearing is now mandatory in shops, on public transport and at train stations in England, but one alternative may be to extend this further. The British Medical Association said in October that masks should be mandatory in all offices or other workplaces, unless individuals work alone.
A number of countries have made it mandatory to wear masks on the streets and in other outdoor public places, but given the lower transmission rates outdoors, this seems less likely.