Covid: Can a ‘circuit break’ halt the second wave?

Posted: September 21st 2020


Why do people use electrical analogies for intense action? This is the equivalent of a “short, sharp, shock” proposal for the virus. Bearing in mind the relative low rates of infection in some rural settings this story makes me wonder if those badly affected places should perhaps not be exempt? It tells us:

Expanding "local" restrictions mean more than 13 million people (one-fifth of the UK population) have extra curbs on their lives.

And the surge in cases is not contained to just the hotspots, but is widespread across the UK. Local restrictions do not suppress a virus that is spreading outside of those areas.

It is against this backdrop the government is deciding what to do next. One idea is a "circuit-break" - a short, sharp period of tightened restrictions for everyone to curb the spread of coronavirus.

So why might a circuit break be needed and what could it achieve?

Let's do some rough maths.

Take 6,000 cases a day, double them every week - as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests is happening - and by mid-October you have more than 100,000 infections a day as we did at the peak.

That is not sophisticated disease modelling, it is not written in stone and measures such as the "rule of six" should slow the spread.

But that simple sum gives a sense of how quickly a small problem can be become a huge one.

A circuit break is all about trying to change that trajectory.