In practice, what could have been done to better control COVID-19 in the UK – if we had no restrictions?
Dr. Julian Tang, Professor of Respiratory Science at Leicester University, explains what he would have done regarding bans, restrictions, and fines had it not been for the political and economic constraints of our government.
Scenario 1: Immediate border lock with track / trace and isolation / quarantine (similar to New Zealand)
After the identification of a British businessman "Superspreader" towards the end of January 2020, we could have closed the borders and quarantined all returning travelers from Europe and Asia – similar to what happened in New Zealand to avoid the risk of Coronavirus Entry into Great Britain.
While it was theoretically possible, in practice it may have been very difficult to ski overseas with so many Brits or have other extended New Years break and there were no bespoke isolation / quarantine arrangements to accommodate all of these returning travelers at the time – even if they all agreed.
If this could have been done we could have prevented most of it COVID-19 Cases that reached Great Britain unnoticed – as most of the infected, according to a UK-wide SARS-CoV-2 sequence analysis.
The problem with this is that the border lockdown can't last forever – and if cargo is still being imported (even if it isn't), there is still a risk of virus-laden packages being imported.
Scenario 2: Living with the virus – not in the Swedish style, but in the Taiwan / Hong Kong style – with early / universal masking and other measures
Hong Kong and Taiwan responded quickly, early, and at the population level to reduce transmission of the virus.
Aided mostly by their experience with the SARS 2003 outbreaks, they practiced universal masking and applied what they had learned from SARS 2003 regarding temperature monitoring, rapid testing, contact tracing, and isolation / quarantine in their populations.
Highly compliant populations meant no longer, larger statewide lockdowns were required.
This type of approach is unlikely to work as a whole package in the larger countries / populations of the UK, Europe and North America, mainly due to cultural differences, as many of these measures are seen as violations of civil liberties / personal freedoms.
However, the downside of this (as these countries have unfortunately learned) is that if these measures are not implemented early, comprehensively and universally, the virus will spread very quickly – which ultimately leads to high rates of infection / death and local / deaths. national lockdowns with all the socio-economic consequences we've seen in the UK.
Ultimately, you cannot control the spread of the virus without compromising personal freedoms and business profitability.
Even if we can get to where we are seasonal influenza With COVID-19, influenza mortality is still significantly high every year – even with well-established vaccines and antivirals.
In fact, we've already made up our minds to sacrifice influenza control each winter to keep our way of life going.
Even in particularly bad years, there was no masking, social distancing, or curfew or bans for the flu.
Influenza patients are admitted to intensive care units in hospitals and thousands of people die from it every year, but we've just learned to live with it.
Influenza also goes away every spring and summer, so we're regularly welcomed and expected redress.
Eventually, our attitudes and approaches to COVID-19 may become the same.