With reports of a second-wave of COVID-19, many of us are feeling anxious about what is to come. The UK government has enforced new restrictions, with further restrictions expected, and the Christmas season is likely to be very different to usual.
On 19 September 4,442 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the UK, similar to the number of new cases reported at the beginning of April (4,032 new cases on the 3 April).
In the UK the R number is now between 1.1 and 1.4. This means on average every 10 people with the virus will go on to infect between 11 and 14 other people. For the virus to be considered under control, the R number needs to be under 1.
Across Europe, countries have seen an increase in coronavirus cases. Starting in younger people and spreading to older and more vulnerable adults, the rise in cases has seen an increase in hospitalisation and deaths in Spain and France. The UK seems to be following the same trajectory which, without restrictions, could overwhelm the NHS.
So, here is a rundown on the new advice and restrictions in place. We will also take a look at further restrictions we could see in the coming months.
What is the advice
- Reduce individual risk by washing our hands, using face-coverings (especially in enclosed spaces), and maintaining social distancing.
- Self-isolate if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and/or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
- Book a COVID-19 test if you are experiencing symptoms.
- Reduce social contact both at work and in social environments. This means following the rule of 6; you must not meet socially with people from other households in groups of more than 6 people.
What restrictions are in place?
On 14 September the Government brought in the rule of 6, which stipulates that we must not meet socially with people from other households in groups of more than six. This means that whilst an establishment can have more than 6 people in their establishment, you should not visit an establishment with a group larger than 6 people.
Exceptions to the rule of 6 include weddings and funerals (up to 30 in attendance), workplaces, schools, registered childcare services, and support groups.
Whilst there are no restrictions on how far we can travel, it is important to keep to COVID-19 guidelines and to avoid public transport if possible.
The police can enforce restrictions and give fines to those who breach the rules. Fines start at £100 and double for further breaches, up to £3200.
For anyone found guilty of organising an illegal gathering of more than 30 people (i.e. a house party), there could be a £10,000 fine.
What restrictions may be brought in?
Possible restrictions that may be enforced in the coming months include nationwide curfews and reduced opening hours for certain businesses.
These tighter restrictions will be enforced as a ‘circuit break’ (a short-term lockdown) in which schools and workplaces will remain open but restrictions on social activities and the hospitality industry will be introduced. The idea is to reduce the spread without going into a second full lockdown that could cause significant harm economically and emotionally.
Is the UK going into another nationwide lockdown?
The Government has not ruled out a second lockdown but stresses the importance of following current restrictions to avoid a lockdown. A second lockdown could be devastating economically and emotionally, particularly for those in deprived areas and on low incomes.
The Good News
Whilst the situation is anxiety-provoking, there is some good news. Nurses and doctors now have a better understanding of how COVID-19 works and how to treat it.
However, more effective treatment will make little difference if the NHS becomes overwhelmed by cases. So, this is why it is important to follow the guidelines!
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific advisor for the UK government, has suggested a small number of effective COVID-19 vaccine doses could be achieved within the first six months of 2021. It would be a long time before the vaccine is widely available but this would certainly be a huge step forward.
Things can seem pretty bleak and scary right now but it’s important to look after your mental health too. So, whatever self-care looks like for you make sure you schedule some in.