BRITONS have entered their fifth week in coronavirus lockdown which was brought in by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 23.
Social distancing is one of the key lockdown measures that is vital in protecting the NHS and saving lives. But what needs to happen before the Government can justify relaxing measures?
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How will UK lockdown end?
It was reported on Sunday that Boris Johnson could set our his plan to ease the lockdown before the May 7 deadline.
The Prime Minister, who returned to work on Sunday evening, has already discussed with ministers the idea of "modifying" the lockdown restrictions before the deadline.
Any change to the UK lockdown will involve modifying it rather than lifting it.
It's understood that restrictions will stay in place even if workplaces and schools reopen.
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A vaccine for Covid-19 is the ultimate goal but is likely to take at least six months to a year before it's made available.
Meanwhile, testing is of the utmost importance – with hopes being pinned on the antibody test, which can tell if a person has had the disease and is immune to it.
So what needs to happen before lockdown can be lifted?
1. Mass testing
On Friday Matt Hancock revealed that seven million of England's key workers and their families would get coronavirus tests.
At least 10 million people are thought to qualify for the tests now, No10 think, and thousands will be able to go back to work if theirs comes back negative.
Brits without a car will be offered a home test, including swabs and instructions – with 1,000 kits sent out daily before the scheme is ramped up.
They will be delivered by Amazon within 24 hours, before being collected the next day by Royal Mail.
All those tested will get their results by text within 48 hours of having their swab taken.
Mass testing is believed to be Britain's exit strategy for beating coronavirus and lifting the lockdown.
According to University College London's Professor Anthony Costello, the lockdown could be lifted in six to eight weeks if the Government follows in the footsteps of South Korea – who have carried out 400,000 tests and got Covid-19 relatively under control.
Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, whose team at Imperial College London has been advising the Government, hinted that current restrictions would "almost certainly" be lifted once testing is ramped up.
He told the BBC: “We want case numbers to get to a low point where we can start substituting other measures for the most intrusive and economically costly aspects of the current lockdown and almost certainly these additional measures will involve massively ramped up testing going back to trying to identify contacts of cases and stopping chains of transmission.
“That can only feasibly be done when we have many fewer cases per day than we have at the moment.”
The Government has rolled out plans to bump up mass testing.
Other countries such as China and Germany have used mass testing to great effect to identify those most at risk and isolate areas where there are hotspots.
The NHS is currently working on a contact tracing app which would notify people if they have come into close contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus.
It will allow people to quickly self-isolate before spreading it to too many people.
The strategy was successful in other countries including South Korea, where just 186 people have died from Covid-19.
2. Social distancing
The second strategy is social distancing – and the Government's rules are to stay at home and only leave the house if you absolutely have to.
Officials say the only reason you should be leaving your house are:
- Shopping for basic necessities, including food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- One form of exercise a day, for example, a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
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These reasons are exceptions – but even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home.
You must also ensure you are two metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
If you have even mild or seemingly unrelated symptoms then you must self isolate until days after they pass or you will infect others and that has a knock-on effect.
Those who are at very high risk of coronavirus, such as the elderly or those with underlying conditions, have been asked to rigorously follow "shielding" measures in order to keep themselves safe.
This group of highly vulnerable people have been written to by the NHS and advised to stay at home at all times.
3. Containment and tracking
While the UK is past the containment stage, tracking is still important and will continue to be even once cases peak.
Iceland, with a relatively small population of around 364,000, has been using detectives to track down potential contact cases and testing aggressively since the outset to isolate everyone, including those who are remotely at risk but show no symptoms.
This draconian action, led by scientists and civil servants instead of politicians, has led to them becoming one of the only countries in the world not to enforce lockdown measures.
Similar measures were used at the beginning of the outbreak in the UK but weren't as effective and the country moved to the "delay" phase.
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