Coronavirus: Lockdown must be lifted now because there is 'no alternative', scientists urge

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
An almost empty Waterloo Station in London at 9am, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
An almost empty Waterloo Station in London at 9am in May as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. (AP)

While England has seen some lockdown restrictions relaxed, scientists have urged a full reopening of society to get the country back on its feet.

Boris Johnson announced an easing of some lockdown restrictions, which were brought in to stop the spread of coronavirus, earlier this month.

However, the easing measures – which include allowing unlimited exercise and a potential reopening of schools – do not go far enough, according to Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM).

They argue that there is now “no alternative” but to end lockdown in order to “start the engine of society again”.

In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)
Boris Johnson announced the relaxation of some lockdown measures earlier this month. (AP)

They said: “Lockdown must be lifted in short order, simply because there is no alternative.

“To run essential services, we need taxes to be paid into state coffers. That is not possible if the economy is halted.”

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The government is considering a partial reopening of schools at the start of June, something Heneghan and Jefferson strongly support.

They added: “The education of a generation of schoolchildren will be blighted.

“We have the impression that politicians boxed in a corner are reluctant to let go of the strings and the media are incapable of seeing a bigger picture, grounded on what we know of previous pandemics and the little we know of this one.”

The pair argue the government and their scientific advisers “should not be subject to an inquest or criticism, which is not constructive”, saying they made decisions “on good faith”.

People settle to enjoy the good weather on the beach in Margate, Kent, after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown, in Margate, England, Tuesday May 19, 2020. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
People settle to enjoy the good weather on the beach in Margate, Kent, after the introduction of measures to bring the country out of lockdown. (AP)

They added: “Any questioning and examination of events should take place very soon, not to castigate or score points but to learn the lessons and implement those changes that could see us more ready for any future similar challenges, be they six months or 100 years ahead.”

Research has suggested that a rolling cycle of 50 days of strict lockdown measures followed by 30 days of easing of restrictions could be an "effective" approach for managing COVID-19 until there is a vaccine.

This model would keep intensive care demand within capacity and "may allow populations and their national economies to 'breathe' at intervals", according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

There are currently no effective treatments for coronavirus, and a vaccine that is widely available is likely to be at least a year away.

A continuous three-month strategy of suppression measures, such as strict physical distancing and lockdown, would reduce new coronavirus cases to near zero in most countries, the study indicated.

Looser mitigation strategies such as hygiene rules and shielding of vulnerable groups would require approximately six-and-a-half months to reach the same point, according to the research.

But the study suggested that such prolonged lockdowns would be unsustainable in most countries due to the potential knock-on effects on the economy and livelihoods.

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