Lockdowns, circuit breakers and tiers – different methods of defeating Covid-19

How much of Europe has been trying to avoid national lockdowns as the second wave hits

Europe is tackling a growing second wave of coronavirus and some of its biggest economies are taking different routes to beat it.

France will implement a second national lockdown on Friday as daily deaths have started to reach the spring peaks. France has had 1.23 million Covid-19 cases and 35,785 deaths.

Germany is pushing its ‘lockdown light’ as a way of keeping the economy running as it battles rising infections. The country has had far fewer deaths – 10,413 – among its 494,000 cases.

Britain, the worst country in Europe for deaths, is still trying to avoid a second national lockdown, first with local efforts and then, possibly, by introducing a circuit breaker. The UK has recorded 965,000 cases and 45,955 deaths.

Circuit breaker

86 columns that surround the inner quay waterway are lit with some thousands of seasonal lights at The Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020.  As longer winter nights sweep in, the dock will become one of the city's most scenic attractions, although nobody knows if people will come to see the spectacle because of the ever changing coronavirus lockdown restrictions. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

As the name suggests, it is meant to take the power out of a spreading outbreak.

If enforced in the UK, it would see virtually all contact between households ended and everything except non-essential business shut.

Social gatherings would also be drastically curtailed.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, has helped write a modelling paper, which estimates deaths could be reduced this year from a projected figure of 19,900 to 12,100 if the appropriate measures are in place.

But importantly, the analysis has not been peer-reviewed and comes with certain caveats.

Professor Matt Keeling, the co-author of the paper, said the circuit breaker “gives us a chance to reset the level of infection”.

National lockdown

TOPSHOT - A man walks on the empty stage of the « theatre de la Sinne » on October 29, 2020, in Mulhouse, eastern France, on the eve of a new lockdown in France to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on October 28 a new lockdown aimed at halting an alarming acceleration of Covid-19 cases, to take effect from Thursday night until "at least December 1." Bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses will be forced to close, but unlike during the two-month lockdown imposed last spring, students will continue to go to school, Macron said during a televised address. / AFP / SEBASTIEN BOZON

This is a return to legally enforced stay-at-home orders across the nation.

These lockdowns are similar to the circuit breaker but will typically last longer than the former, for which a lifting date is given.

In Britain, the spring lockdown meant people had to stay at home except for emergencies and essential trips such as shopping for food.

Ireland and other countries imposed limits on the distance people could travel from home.

France is now entering its second national lockdown and this time schoolchildren as young as six will have to wear masks in class.

Schools, parks and public services will be allowed to stay open, but universities, cinemas and restaurants will be shut, and people will not be able to travel between regions.

There is evidence that national lockdowns can work, with New Zealand being the prime example of a country that beat Covid-19.

But New Zealand also went into lockdown when it had only a few cases.

Lockdown light

A poster advertising delivery service and reading: "Lockdown, volume 2" hangs in the window of a restaurant in Berlin on October 29, 2020, prior to a "semi-lockdown" starting on November 2, 2020, which will see a closing of bars and restaurants in Germany. Germany imposed drastic curbs on people's daily lives to contain a surge in coronavirus cases with France following suit as more than 500,000 infections were reported worldwide in a new daily record. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL

Germany is heading for what it calls a lockdown light, trying to strike a balance between the economy and controlling the outbreak.

Infections in the country are rising but it is still in relatively good health compared with others hitting the second wave.

Religious venues can stay open, nursing home residents can host visitors and all shops can stay open but with social-distancing measures in place.

And groups of up to 10 people, comprising two households only, will be able to meet up.

Localised tiers

Many national governments across Europe were insistent that they would not impose second-wave lockdowns.

Italy, Germany and the UK all refused to do so – with varying degrees of determination – as the summer became autumn and temperatures started to fall.

Italy is considering tightening its own restrictions but has so far stayed with local efforts.

In Germany, localised lockdowns were ordered around large outbreaks, including one at a meat processing plant.

In England, each region is placed in one of three tiers with Tier 1 being medium, Tier 2 high and Tier 3 very high.

Under Tier 1 rules, gatherings are restricted to six people at most, with some household mixing allowed. In Tier 2, groups of six can meet but only outdoors. There is no household mixing and no travelling outside areas in Tier 3.

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