Monday's announcement by the prime minister that the public should adopt measures to reduce person-to-person contact marks a significant shift in the government's position.
It appears to be in response to modelling by the COVID-19 team at London's Imperial College that indicates as many as 250,000 people could die if the strategy of mitigation is not replaced by one of suppression.
The new government advice appears to be somewhere between the two. But what exactly do they mean?
The aim of mitigation is not to stop the spread of the disease – there is an acceptance that many people will become ill. Measures include increasing hygiene awareness, some social distancing, home-working where possible, self-isolating if a person displays symptoms, and if a positive diagnosis is confirmed, targeted testing of contacts.
Mitigation is designed to slow the rate of infection throughout a population – to spread the number of cases over a longer period of time, rather than a sharp peak in infections, to better allow emergency services to cope with the most acute cases. It is also designed to buy time to generate more resources, for the development of more effective treatments and in the longer term, vaccines.
The aim of suppression is, as far as is possible, to stop the epidemic in its tracks, at least in the short term. It is tacit acceptance that the softer approach of mitigation is not working and more draconian measures are required. It means severe restrictions on freedom of movement, the closing of social venues such as pubs, clubs and theatres, a far more rigorous testing regime, increasing self-isolation times, and in extreme circumstances, using security services to enforce the conditions of suppression.
The downside is that the peak rate of infection will not be flattened, but just shifted to a later date. The hope is that this would give emergency services the breathing space to prepare for a large-scale increase in severe cases once the conditions of suppression are eased.
Whether mitigation or suppression, the consequences can be severe. In economic terms this can range from stock market volatility, the collapse of major companies, the permanent closure of entertainment venues, and at a personal level, the loss of income and jobs, both in the short and long term.
The government has said it will introduce measures to help industry and individuals, but the level and extent required has yet to be calculated. The current position of advising businessRead More – Source