The government has presented plans to end mandatory mask wear and lift social distancing requirements despite scientists warning that ongoing measures will be needed to control a resurgence in infections.
Documents released Monday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) indicate that as current measures are lifted, transmission “will almost certainly increase”, with modeling suggesting that infections are very likely to peak at a time after steps 3 and 4.
An article from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modeling, Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviors (Spi-B) and Environmental Modeling Group (EMG), and dated April 22, indicates that a “basic” set of measures should be considered, as an individual. the measures are likely to have a limited impact.
The document also says: “There is a significant risk in allowing the prevalence to increase, even if hospitalizations and deaths are kept low by vaccination.
“If it was necessary to reduce the prevalence again to low levels (eg, VoCs becoming more pathogenic for others previously less affected), restrictive measures would be needed for much longer. “
Scientists say another wave is expected to occur even if the assumed baseline measurements reduce transmission by 25%, but it would be much higher without them.
In addition to wearing face coverings, basic measures considered include symptomatic testing and isolation (after a positive test), isolation from contacts, certification to show negative tests or vaccination, and physical distancing .
On physical distancing, the document reads: “Short-range transmission [is] likely to be the highest risk of individual exposure, so explicit measures to consider are likely to be beneficial. “
He also states, “Even beyond the point where all adults have been offered the vaccine, keeping some level of measures in place during the summer and beyond would dramatically reduce ongoing transmission.
“It should be noted that countries (eg New Zealand) that have a Covid-19 close to zero have decided to keep certain basic measures (eg wearing masks on public transport) to reduce the impact of occasional epidemics. ”
Regarding the effectiveness of QR code registration and contact information collection, the paper suggests that it is currently ad hoc and quite limited due to the data remaining on individuals’ phones and only a small proportion of people. people regularly using the recording.
Scientists warn: “It is very likely that transmission increases in the fall and winter.
“This may mean that the effectiveness of basic measures may vary over the course of the year and will need to be increased to have the same impact.
They add: “Lift restrictions can recreate the conditions for super-spreader events, both motivated by one person (a highly infectious but possibly asymptomatic person going to multiple locations) and by the setting (nightclubs, religious events where overcrowding is felt, poor ventilation, strong activities, etc.).
The document spells out a number of other measures that are likely to be needed as well, such as vaccination, border controls, Variants of Concern (VoC) responses, and local responsive measures to hot spots and outbreaks.
In a document from a Sage meeting on April 22, government scientists say ongoing basic measures and sustained long-term behavior change “will be needed to control a resurgence of infections.”
They say there are three main ways basic measures can reduce transmission – reducing the likelihood of infectious people mixing with others, for potentially infectious people who are not isolated, reducing the likelihood that they enter high-risk environments or situations, reducing the risk of transmission from a potentially infectious person in a given environment.
The most effective baseline metrics, if adherence is good, are likely to be those that meet the first of these goals, the researchers say.
The document says: “As there is a shift from rules to guidance and individual decision-making, lasting behavior change will also be necessary for measures to be most effective. “