The easing of lockdown measures is on the horizon, but social distancing could be with us for some time.
Though the end of lockdown is in sight, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and First Secretary of State Dominic Raab are among those warning the UK to prepare for “a new normal” involving social distancing for the foreseeable future.
How long will social distancing measures be in place?
Simply put, social distancing measures in some form will be in place until a successful vaccine has been tried, tested, licensed and administered to the general public.
Since the start of the pandemic it has been warned that this is a time-consuming process which typically takes 12 to 18 months.
By that rule of thumb it would be reasonable to expect that a vaccine would not be available until well into 2021.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned that the chances of a suitable vaccine or treatment being ready before the close of the year was “incredibly small”.
As a result Whitty said that social distancing measures would need to be in place for “really quite a long period of time”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously warned that Covid-19 is “here to stay” and that social distancing measures would be necessary until a vaccine was available.
What are current social distancing rules?
Current social distancing measures encourage the UK public to stay at home, and only go out if they have “ a reasonable excuse”.
These excuses include:
- exercise (alone or with a member of their own household)
- shopping for necessities
- medical needs
- travel to or from work (if not possible to work from home).
When outside members of the public are urged to stay more than two metres apart.
Public gatherings of more than two people are also banned under current social distancing rules.
Clinically vulnerable people should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.
What new rules could be introduced?
A draft of new measures for workers have already been floated by the government with reduced hot-desking, working from home and shift staggering among the measures that could be introduced.
The Telegraph have also claimed that primary schools could be opened as early as June 1.
The use of public transport is also thought to be at the forefront of the government’s plans with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggesting that one-way systems could be introduced at stations in order to prevent public transport from becoming a breeding ground for the virus.
During his press briefing on April 30 Mr Johnson also hinted that he government would encourage the use of face coverings, despite previous claims that they had a minimal positive impact.
Coronavirus: The Facts
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus and is spread primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
What are the symptoms?
The NHS states that you should not leave the home if you have either:
• a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
• a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t go to your GP but instead look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
What precautions can be taken?
Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
When can I go outside?
The Government has put the UK into lockdown and instructed everyone to stay at home. You should only leave your home for very limited purposes:
• shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
• one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
• any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
• travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
However, these reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.