The article below was written by Damian and published in the Herald group of papers on 17th September:
"From this week, individuals can only meet socially in groups of up to 6 people, with breaches subject to fines of £100; doubling for further breaches up a maximum of £3,200.
And from the latest correspondence I have received, this new ‘rule of 6’ is judged as too draconian by some and too lenient by others, but it is clear from the evidence put forward that action needed to be taken.
The easing of measures over the summer was essential for both our economic and social well-being, but it was only possible as the number of cases of Covid-19, and deaths caused by the virus, had fallen significantly.
The scale and scope of the medical, financial and social measures taken by the government in response to the virus has been extraordinary, but so has been the impact on people’s lives. And we know now that we must prepare for an extended period of action to carefully balance the needs of people’s livelihoods and their health. This is about minimising the risks for the largest benefit of all.
We have learnt, and continue to learn, a great deal about the virus and how it behaves, and that is why we have an ever-evolving response to it, with measures that can be dialled up or down as needed.
The development of Covid-19 Secure guidance has enabled thousands of businesses, schools, colleges and universities to reopen. Key social events and activities have once again been allowed. Rules on who and how many can meet up has changed and altered in the past few months, and although the new ‘rule of 6’ may be hard for some families and groups of friends to manage, it is simpler to understand and to enforce.
It is hoped that this greater simplicity will help to keep a substantial part of our regular lives open – workplaces, childcare, educational settings, court and religious services, restaurants and pubs, our high street traders, transport facilities, indoor and outdoor sports and exercise amongst others – yet reduce the spread of the virus.
Yes, it will restrict our social interaction with others, but it does not necessarily restrict where we go; to exercise, eat out, shop or even stay away from home. And importantly, it allows those who are most vulnerable to have the social contact and support they need.
Some argue that the relatively low death rate means that the ‘rule of 6’ is an overreaction. It is true that the majority of new cases is still amongst the young, but there are signs that older people, who are most at risk of developing a serious illness, are also catching the virus. And although the NHS is better equipped to manage those who need hospitalisation, this puts increasing pressure on the system just as those waiting for procedures hope to be seen and as we head towards winter.
The reality is that the latest R number for the UK (and for the South East as a region) is now estimated to be between 1.0-1.2, which means that on average every person who is infected is likely to be infecting more than one person. And the latest Growth Rate for the UK is believed to be between -1% to +3% per day, so it is very likely that the number of infections is growing on a daily basis.
And the third report from the country’s largest study on coronavirus rates of infection published last week by Imperial College London and Isos MORI, in which more than 300,000 volunteers were tested across England between 24 July and 7 September, shows the virus is now doubling every 7 to 8 days.
It is SAGE’s expert view that the epidemic is now growing, and this is in line with data from other countries who are seeing similar trends. There are no easy options at moments like this, and further measures may become necessary.
But the important work on the development of a vaccine continues apace. Progress is also being made in new testing protocols and systems, with new type of tests – which are simple, quick and scaleable - being piloted.
This could for instance mean theatres and sports venues could test audience members on the day and let in those with a negative result, workplaces could be opened up to all those who test negative that morning, and anyone isolating because they are a contact, or quarantining after travelling abroad, could be tested and released.
In the meantime, wash hands frequently, wear a facemask when necessary, get a test in you have symptoms, and keep to the ‘rule of 6’."