Local lockdowns may not be reducing the rise in coronavirus cases - according to experts

By Ethan Shone
Monday, 28th September 2020, 12:58 pm
Updated Monday, 28th September 2020, 12:59 pm
Local lockdowns may not be reducing the rise in coronavirus cases - according to experts (Photo: Shutterstock)
Local lockdowns may not be reducing the rise in coronavirus cases - according to experts (Photo: Shutterstock)

The government’s strategy of introducing area-specific restrictions in order to reduce the rate of infection in coronavirus hotspots has been thrown into question by analysis from The Telegraph which shows that local lockdowns have had a limited effect so far.

A study of the effectiveness of local lockdowns in bringing the number of coronavirus infections under control has found that in only one instance has a local lockdown brought the case numbers down enough in order to be lifted.

What does the data show?

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Until recently there were three parts of the UK (Luton, Stockport and Wigan) which had been able to lift stricter local measures put in place due to rising case numbers, but Stockport and Wigan had the measures reimposed last week. Luton has also seen a recent rise in case numbers which may result in restrictions being reintroduced.

The analysis also shows that places such as Leicester and Oldham, which saw locally targeted measures introduced, are now seeing a very high number of infections once again, with the measures even being tightened up in Leicester, to prevent mixing between households.

Speaking to The Telegraph, director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Carl Heneghan, said the introduction of additional restrictions in Oldham had “little, or no impact, on what happened next.”

He explained, “Attempting to reduce the numbers over the summer can have the counterproductive effect of increasing the susceptible population going into winter.”

What might work instead?

The findings show that “much more community testing is needed” and that “contract tracing isn’t yet good enough” according to Emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, Professor Hugh Pennington, who told The Telegraph, “I have to agree that local measures are often having disappointing results.”

“We are now seeing rises across the country in line with the seasonal effect of going back to schools and universities, all of which is highly predictable and happens every year for circulating respiratory pathogens,” he added.

Following a number of places being placed into local lockdowns last week and several new areas in Wales seeing restrictions come into effect today (28 September), around one in four UK residents are currently living under some degree of heightened, local restrictions.

It has been reported that ministers are preparing to introduce a total social lockdown for parts of Northern England and potentially London, which would see all pubs, restaurants and cafes closed for at least two weeks, and an indefinite ban on household mixing.