Because a second coronavirus wave is inevitable, apparently.
“I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe, and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores, and to tackle it,” the health minister said during an interview on Sky News.
“We have significant concerns about the second wave that is coming across Europe. And it’s not just Spain … but there are other countries too where the number of Covid-19 cases is rising.”
And, in a statement which was released late last night, Hancock has since ruled that “people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors” in Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and the city of Leicester.
In 13 of the 19 local authority areas affected, the rate of infection in the seven days to 27 July has gone up, with 1,536 cases recorded across all the areas in the space of a week.
“The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing,” claimed Hancock.
“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of Covid across Europe and are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe.”
It is worth noting that, according to new survey data for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 47% of the 1,150 people who reported socialising during the ongoing pandemic said they had always maintained social distancing, with this proportion rising to 70% of those aged 70 and over.
As such, many people have asked why pubs and clubs remain open. And many more, including Adam Kay, are asking how the government knows the spikes are down to households mixing.
“Can someone wise explain to me how it’s possible to know that the spread is due to people’s “disobedience”, rather than the government’s (some would say) hasty relaxation measures?” he tweeted.
As reported on 10 July: “It seems like it’s all back to normal, doesn’t it?” one of my neighbours said to me this week, despite the fact that they were speaking to me from behind a face mask and two metres away. “I bet we’ll be wondering what all that coronavirus stuff was about in a few weeks time.”
Hmm. I wonder.
There’s no denying that, as lockdown restrictions have been eased across the UK, things have been feeling a lot less pandemic-y (for want of a better word). People are back at the pubs, restaurants, and hair salons. They’re meeting up with loved ones again – albeit while social distancing, of course. Cinemas are cautiously opening their doors across the country. Gyms and swimming pools, too, will be reopening in the not-so-distant future. People are going on dates. And we’re even allowed to book holidays again, if we fancy it.
The thing is… do we fancy it? Personally, I find myself firmly on the fence, as ever. On the one hand, I’m desperate to get back to normality. I’d love to visit my friends, I’d love to buy an oversized bucket of popcorn at the movies, and I’d really love to whisk my partner away on that trip to Slovenia we’ve been dreaming about for ages.
On the other hand, though…
Well, I know lots of people who are still vulnerable, still shielding, still staying at home as much as possible. I have many loved ones, too, who worked as nurses and healthcare workers and GPs on the Covid-19 frontline. It feels almost an insult to their hard work and sacrifice if I get back out there and act like none of this ever happened.
There’s also the fact that the UK’s death toll is sitting at an almost-impossible-to-comprehend 44,602 (and counting). It’s not failed to escape my attention, either, that several pubs have been forced to close since ‘Super Saturday’ after several customers apparently ignored their Covid-19 symptoms and rocked up for a pint regardless.
Earlier this week, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown, as the country closed the boundary between the states of Victoria and New South Wales for the first time in 100 years. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, health officials are racing to contain a third wave of cases, after weeks of no local infections.
South Korea, China, New Zealand, Singapore and Israel have all reported new infections, too, after initially appearing to beat the virus, and that’s despite the fact their citizens by and large follow health authorities’ advice, don’t buy into conspiracy theories, and, most importantly, wear masks.
Things might seem normal, on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s all still… well, it’s all still quite pandemic-y. And I really, really don’t want to contribute to the much-discussed ‘second wave’.
However, until we secure a vaccine, it seems we’re all doomed to repeat this coronavirus cycle at some point. As Professor Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC: “A second wave is almost inevitable, particularly as we go towards the winter months.”
“The evidence is the vast majority of people are still susceptible. In essence, if we lift all measures, we’re back to where we were in February,” added Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“It’s almost like starting from scratch again… [and] flare-ups could happen quite quickly if measures are lifted beyond the point transmission is controlled.”
Does this mean, then, that I should get out and enjoy myself while I have the chance? Give into my desperate need for IRL interaction with other human beings, come hell or high water? Do my bit to boost the economy out of a terrible slump? Go on holiday, enjoy a pint at the pub, have a big slap-up meal at my favourite restaurant (all while wearing a face mask, obviously), just in case the country is rammed unceremoniously back into lockdown for Christmas?
Or should I stay indoors? Practice the common sense we’ve all been urged to use? Do my best to help “ensure the peak isn’t so much that it overburdens the healthcare system”?
I guess the trick here is that there is no right answer for anyone: we have to do what feels best for us as individuals. But, when we do feel ready to head back into the big wide world (and we’ll all have to, at some point), we must remember one very important thing: the world is not back to normal.
As reported by the BBC, the virus is still around and it is “no less deadly or infectious” than at the start of 2020. Only around 5% of people in the UK are thought to have been infected so far. And there is no guarantee they are all immune.
With that in mind, then, some things to remember:
- wear face coverings
- wash your hands
- use the trackers provided
- follow social distancing guidelines
- avoid crowded areas, wherever possible
- stay indoors if you’re not feeling well
- meet up with friends in open spaces, if you can
- use your common sense at all times
These are our limbo guidelines. They’re not much, I suppose, but they’re the best we have. So let’s be sure to use them over the next few weeks, yeah? Because, hopefully, doing so may just help to ease the impact of that much-anticipated second wave.