The country is currently under a three-week lockdown period, like much of the rest of the UK, but after hospital admissions in Wales have continued falling consistently for 14 days, the Welsh Government is proposing that, should this continue, the country considers leaving the lockdown in three stages, ‘like a traffic light in reverse’.
First Minister Mark Drakeford explained that the red phase would see only ‘the most careful and controlled lifting of restrictions’, with the amber zone seeing more restrictions lifted and, if the virus is then not re-emerging, Wales could then move to the green zone.
However, as many people have been reported rushing to their second homes, the country is also imposing some stricter rules too, to help quell the spread of Covid-19.
Elsewhere, in Scotland, government officials considering the country’s lockdown exit strategy have warned that people will have to ‘adapt to a new reality’. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asserted that the coronavirus lockdown is likely to be phased in Scotland - with some measures remaining in place into next year or beyond.
In a paper published by the Scottish Government it reasoned that alongside not being able to set any dates for when the restrictions could begin to be lifted, when the lockdown does start to be relaxed strong measures to sustain low levels of transmission will be required until either a vaccine or cure is developed. “We are likely to require that gathering in groups, for example in pubs or at public events, is banned or restricted for some time to come,” the paper read.
In England, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty insisted that social distancing measures could be in place until the end of the year unless a vaccine is found sooner. “In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally. A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed... or, and or, highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people,” he said. “Until we have those – and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year is incredibly small, and I think we should be realistic about that – we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment. But until that point, that is what we will have to do.”
Speculating on the stages in which the UK’s lockdown would be lifted, scientist and medical officers suggested it was likely carefully planned measures, including the reopening of schools first (researchers estimate that school closures would reduce deaths by around two to four per cent during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, less than other social distancing measures), and releasing the nation-wide lockdown in stages. “Essentially, I think what will have to be done is as cases fall, the lockdown will have to be released, cases will go back up and it will have to be reapplied. Because there’s no other way of doing it,” Professor Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Nottingham, predicted.
For the time being, antibody research, vaccine trials and immunisation data still need to be carefully collected and processed before government officials are able to give any realistic timeframes. The problem, highlighted Professor Neal, is that the Covid-19 crisis, while being a global pandemic, presented a series of epidemics in different countries – hence why some countries are able to lift lockdown measures sooner than others.