• Matthew Stevens

A second lockdown is not the way forward

By Matthew Stevens, Editor

With cases rising for several weeks, and the rate of infection (r-rate) above 1, we would be easily fooled into thinking the best outcome for the wellbeing of our nation is to stop the spread with a two-week ‘circuit break’.

However effective this is, it was first used when there was limited access to face coverings, protections in care homes, public understanding, and knowledge of the virus. With only 20% of the working population operating exclusively from home, according to the ONS, a second devastating economic shock would rock the UK to its knees, leading to dramatically higher levels of deprivation from financial and social stress than would be caused by COVID alone.

Despite significantly higher rates of infection now than a couple of months ago, deaths have not been rising in tandem. Those who are younger and healthier are beginning to live their normal lives while those shielding or at risk are taking precautions and therefore generally not joining the infection statistics. The last time we saw this many infections a day, in early April, we were experiencing 500 to 1000 deaths a day. This number was 21 on the 17th of September.

This is largely due to the above argument, with younger and healthier people making up the majority of the infection rate, but also because we are simply testing far more people now. Since early April, tests per day have risen from around 14,000 to 220,000. France, who are around a month ahead of the UK in terms of its COVID timeline, has experienced a predictably low level of deaths since their second peak, which calls into doubt the possibility of the UK deaths being a lagging statistic. Furthermore, according to Bloomberg, COVID is growing less deadly due to a better understanding of medicines, the use of ventilators, and the allocation of resources.

(Data: Gov.uk)

The second wave we are going into is displayed by the above graphs. Supposedly high rates of infection, but deaths are incomparable to the peak of the pandemic. To put these statistics into further perspective, daily deaths are currently not far from the average daily deaths from suicide in 2019, which was 18. A further lockdown, leading to loss of incomes and extreme social hardships has the very real threat of increasing suicide rates to the point where it may be higher than the deaths from COVID, but at the same time crippling the economic outlook for the future and current generation, forcing the government to enact even harsher levels of taxation to pay for an extended furlough scheme.

There is a possible reason why the government is proposing this. Approval. A dreadful first month of the pandemic has indebted the government to the people, making it an absolute requirement for the government to prove they care about public health. The problem is that pubic health is deeply embedded in the economy.

Economic health is mental and physical health. The government will want to instate a second lockdown and then cite the resulting low death figures as the outcome of such a decision when in reality it was likely going to be not far from the case anyway. Of course, there will be slightly higher deaths by keeping the economy open rather than locking it down, but my argument is that this is not sufficiently strong enough to justify the long term impact on people's mental health and economic wellbeing, which I also argue has the potential to lead to higher deaths than through COVID, through poverty, suicides and funding pressures on the NHS.

We need to make it categorically clear to the government that we both understand these arguments and we do not agree with a second lockdown while educating other people by simply telling them the truth.