Public support for coronavirus lockdown 'won't last', academics warn

14 April 2020, 12:31

Lockdown is being enforced across the UK
Lockdown is being enforced across the UK. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Academics have said that government needs to find a way to tell the nation about how it will be eased out of lockdown, as public support for the measures "won't last".

The comments from Professor Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, come as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said figures indicate the UK was "starting to win this struggle" against the coronavirus but warned it was "still not past the peak".

It has been three weeks since the lockdown began and the public is now steeling itself for more of the same, amid an atmosphere where support for the measures remains high, compliance is generally good and concern about the virus is at the forefront of people's minds, according to Prof Bauld.

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She warned: "But this won't last.

"The social, economic and health effects of lock down are accumulating.

"There will come a tipping point when the cost of the current restrictions outweighs the benefits."

Dominic Raab has suggested lockdown measures will need to be extended
Dominic Raab has suggested lockdown measures will need to be extended. Picture: PA

With no official indication of how long the lockdown may last, Prof Bauld said: "Sooner rather than later, government needs to share the possible options with the public and be transparent about the costs and benefits of each, rather than continually evading questions on this, as is currently the case."

This information on what the next steps in the battle against coronavirus may entail would help people to plan their lives while also offer some reassurance, she insists.

This would be "particularly important for our young people who feel huge uncertainty about education and employment options in the short term, as well as those experiencing the most adverse outcomes from the restrictions".

Mr Raab told the daily Downing Street press conference that this week the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) would review the evidence of the effectiveness of social distancing measures.

He said: "We don't expect to make any changes to the measures currently in place at that point and we won't until we're confident, as confident as we realistically can be, that any such changes can be safely made."

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Prof Rowland Kao, of the University of Edinburgh, also pointed out that "considerable uncertainty" remains over the number of people who have never been exposed to Covid-19 and therefore have no immunity, compared to those who may have had no discernible symptoms but may have developed an immunity.

This could be a factor in plans to cut back on the lockdown restrictions because if the number with no immunity is high, then any relaxation of controls could expose them to greater risk and may lead to a rise in cases.

Any changes "must be done gradually, (and) only initially considering the lowest risk and most vital activities," he suggested, adding that it should be followed by a period of continued surveillance with no further reductions in controls.

"This is so the impact of the most recent changes can be assessed.

Stating that future decisions should only be made when pandemic declines, he said: "At the bare minimum, this would be several weeks between decisions points, and possibly longer, with some possibility that restrictions could be increased again depending on the available evidence."