After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the United Kingdom is preparing to move from ‘Contain’ to ‘Delay’ phase. According to media reports, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the ‘Delay’ phase after chairing a meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergency planning committee, on March 12.
The British government has chalked out the overall plan to fight the deadly disease into four different phases: Contain, Delay, Research, and Mitigate. The 'Delay' phase is aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus, lowering the peak impact and pushing it towards the summer season when the National Health Service (NHS) will be under less pressure.
“The benefits of doing so are that if the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, we can reduce significantly the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges, societal or medical, that the colder months bring,” reads a government document on the action plan.
While several actions of 'Contain' phase continue during the 'Delay' phase, the next phase could mean temporary closure of schools and colleges. It could also lead to banning some large public gatherings after analysing the cost of cancelling such events. Though the 'Delay' phase does not call for any major lockdown, the cancellation of sporting and cultural events could have a considerable impact on the country’s stagnant economy.
As per the government’s actions plan, the 'Delay' phase also helps buy time for the development and testing of vaccines since there is currently no vaccine available for the coronavirus pandemic. Government experts are considering other effective actions under the 'Delay' phase which will have social costs of implementing them.
“Some of these will have social costs where the benefit of doing them to Delay the peak will need to be considered against the social impact,” the action plan reads.
The “social cost” suggests that the government could urge the employees to work from home and avoid social gatherings. Britain has reported 456 confirmed cases of coronavirus with eight fatalities due to the deadly virus.