The British government are to begin encouraging members of the public to self-administer a COVID-19 test twice a week, in what they claim is an attempt to help “stop the spread” of the virus and begin lifting nationwide lockdown measures, according to a report in The Times.
The plan to urge adults in the U.K. to “play their part” in easing lockdown restrictions by adopting a habit of self-testing for COVID will reportedly be accompanied by a national sewage monitoring effort, which testing chiefs say will drive down so-called cases of infection with the virus.
The supposed role of sewage monitoring will be to quickly identify areas of particularly large outbreaks of the virus, to then roll out “surge testing” with a view to rendering national lockdowns a thing of the past. Local lockdowns have not yet been ruled out.
According to The Times, “[o]fficials accept this is the most optimistic scenario and are wary of over-promising after ministers touted the creation of Test and Trace last summer as the way to prevent future lockdowns,” which did nothing to stop the government-imposed restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a “roadmap” to easing lockdown restrictions at the end of February, wherein he stated a four-step plan to gradually reopen the economy and travel. The last step, number four, states the government’s “hope” that “all legal limits on social contact can be removed,” qualifying that this can be done “no earlier than 21 June.” Shops, bars, restaurants, gymnasia, arenas, and hotels are all to be opened before the removal of mandated physical distancing in stage four.
Emergency government powers in place at the moment, which allow the administration to impose restrictions otherwise unprecedented, are set to be extended by a further six months following a vote in Parliament on Thursday. This would draw out the possibility of keeping restrictions to at least September, three months after the earliest proposed date of all measures being removed.
Following warnings from the Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, Mary Ramsay, who claimed it is now “very important that we don’t relax too quickly,” the vote is expected to favor extending lockdown powers, despite protests from MPs within the ruling Conservative Party. Ramsay also suggested a need to wear face masks and physically distance “for a few years.”
Steve Baker, head of the Covid Recovery Group, has said he will vote against the extension of lockdown controls, deeming “the detention powers in the Coronavirus Act” as “disproportionate, extreme, and wholly unnecessary.” He added that “[r]enewing them would not be reconcilable with the Prime Minister’s guarantee that we are on a ‘one-way road to freedom’ by June 21.”
Conservative MP Adam Afriyie said: “I fear that some minds in government are focusing on arbitrary dates rather than looking at the reality of the data on hospitalisations and deaths, which is what we were told in January would determine the unlocking,” urging that the drop in deaths and “cases” should demonstrate no need to continue locking down. Read Full Article >