A rolling cycle of 50 days of strict lockdown measures followed by 30 days of easing of restrictions could be the latest effort in managing coronavirus, scientists have suggested.
Research suggests that the on and off measures could be an “effective” approach for managing Covid-19 – until at least there is a vaccine.
But the Health Secretary warned earlier this month that there is no guarantee a vaccine will be found for coronavirus despite optimism that a vaccine will be developed, but a timescale remains uncertain.
This model, suggested in a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, would keep intensive care demand within capacity and “may allow populations and their national economies to ‘breathe’ at intervals.”
The study indicated that a continuous, three-month strategy of suppression measures, such as strict physical distancing and lockdown, would reduce new coronavirus cases to near zero in most countries.
It would take looser mitigation strategies such as hygiene rules and shielding of vulnerable groups approximately six-and-a-half months to reach the same point, according to the research.
But the study suggested that such prolonged lockdowns would be unsustainable in most countries due to the potential knock-on effects on the economy and livelihoods.
The researchers did not model the scenarios in the UK but said they expect the situation to be “very similar to that in other high-income countries”.
Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, a global health epidemiologist at Cambridge University and the paper’s lead author, said: “Our models predict that dynamic cycles of 50-day suppression followed by a 30-day relaxation are effective at lowering the number of deaths significantly for all countries throughout the 18-month period.
“This intermittent combination of strict social distancing, and a relatively relaxed period, with efficient testing, case isolation, contact tracing and shielding the vulnerable, may allow populations and their national economies to ‘breathe’ at intervals – a potential that might make this solution more sustainable, especially in resource-poor regions.”
The UK is currently in its ninth week of lockdown with the next phase of the plan on easing the strict measures expected to start from June 1.