COVID-19: Lockdown needs to be stricter, scientists warn

Sana Khan
January 27, 2021

There is a new variant of COVID-19 in the UK that is estimated to be around 50-70% more contagious than the virus that affected people last March. Therefore, the same measures used in spring will not be sufficient to reduce the infection rate this time.

Schools continue to be a vector for community infection as the Department of Education widened the categories of vulnerable and key worker pupils. Therefore, compared to the previous lockdown, attendance rates are surging to 50% in some places.

The NHS is under extreme pressure, and there is an unprecedented number of patients requiring intensive care treatment, with many hospitals stating they do not have enough staff to manage it. This will only get worse as cases rise following the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas.

Food for Thought
  • Stress on NHS staff: many frontline health workers are suffering from extreme physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Doctors and nurses have to be the ones to hold the iPads when a patient with COVID wishes to speak to their family one last time. There are countless stories on social media of doctors not having time for lunch, breaking bad news multiple times in a day, and dealing with death more often than anyone should. Many are unable to organise annual leave until the situation settles. Is this safe? What are the possible consequences of health workers being stretched to maximum capacity?
  • Impact of schools on COVID-19 rates: the categories for vulnerable and key worker pupils have now been widened to include pupils' who cannot access remote learning or those whose parents are working on Brexit. By allowing students who don't own a laptop to attend school, the Government are ensuring disadvantaged students still have access to education. Which of these two groups of students should have priority? Is there anything else the Government could have done to support these students without encouraging them to come to school? What priorities and pressures are the Government trying to balance in making this decision?

Practice Interview QUestions
  1. What do you think hospitals can put in place to protect the wellbeing of their staff?
  2. Should stricter lockdown measures be put in place.
  3. You are having a conversation with someone who thinks COVID-19 is a myth and that everyone should be allowed to live life as normal. What do you say to this person?

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