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Lockdown 'rollover' of 50 days on and 30 off until 2022 'is way to beat coronavirus'

Mirror logo Mirror 19/05/2020 Mark Waghorn & Shivali Best

A 'lockdown rollover' of 50 days on and 30 days off should be introduced...until 2022, say British scientists.

An alternating 80-day cycle will reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths and admissions to intensive care units, according to new research.

Month long intervals of relaxed social distancing would be followed by much more austere measures - lasting almost twice as long.

The strategy is based on mathematical formulas using data from 16 countries - and applies to the UK.

Social distance and empty spaces: UK life under coronavirus lockdown (Photos)

Lead author Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, of Cambridge University, said: "Although we did not model the situation in the UK, I would expect it to be very similar to that in other high income countries."

The study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, found it could save jobs - relieving financial insecurity and social disruption.

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More on coronavirus:

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How to stay safe working, travelling and shopping (Sky News)

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The successful "test-contact trace-isolate" system and shielding of the vulnerable would remain in place.

a person wearing a blue shirt: A 'lockdown rollover' of 50 days on and 30 days off should be introduced...until 2022, say British scientists © Provided by Mirror A 'lockdown rollover' of 50 days on and 30 days off should be introduced...until 2022, say British scientists His international team believe the approach is more sustainable over the long term than current methods that minimise person-to-person transmission of the virus.

These include social distancing, isolating suspected infected individuals, school closures - and lockdowns.

Dr Chowdhury, a global health epidemiologist, said: "Our models predict dynamic cycles of 50-day suppression followed by a 30-day relaxation are effective at lowering the number of deaths significantly for all countries throughout the 18 month period.

"This intermittent combination of strict social distancing, and a relatively relaxed period, with efficient testing, case isolation, contact tracing and shielding the vulnerable, may allow populations and their national economies to 'breathe' at intervals - a potential that might make this solution more sustainable, especially in resource-poor regions."

a couple of people that are talking on a cell phone: The government previously wanted the whole of the UK to move as one - but that already isn't happening any more © Getty Images The government previously wanted the whole of the UK to move as one - but that already isn't happening any more

Specific durations of the interventions would need to be defined by each country according to their needs and local facilities.

The key is to identify a pattern that protects the population from Covid-19 as well as economic hardship and mental health issues.

The virus has been detected in every country, with more than 4.6 million confirmed cases and a death toll of over 320,000 to date.

There is no effective treatment and a widely-available vaccine is likely to be at least a year away.

It has been unclear what the frequency and duration of such dynamic interventions should be and which strategy could be adapted globally.

a person standing in front of a building: A police officer stands near the stairs to the tube station at Oxford Circus in London © AFP via Getty Images A police officer stands near the stairs to the tube station at Oxford Circus in London

So the Global Dynamic Interventions Strategies for COVID-19 Collaborative Group modelled three scenarios across countries spanning Belgium to India.

They varied in setting and income and had diverse health and economic infrastructures.

The rolling cycle of a strict, 50-day lockdown followed by 30-days of easing reduce the R number, or reproductive rate of the virus, to 0.5 - well below 1 where cases rise exponentially.

It also kept ICU demand within national capacity. Since more individuals remain susceptible at the end of each cycle, the pandemic would last longer - beyond 18 months in all countries.

Related: Coronavirus myths busted (Photos)

But a significantly smaller number - just over 130,000 across the countries looked at - would die during that period.

In comparison, imposing no measures would lead to patients requiring treatment in intensive care units (ICUs) exceeding the available capacity - resulting in 7.8 million deaths.

The duration of the epidemic would last nearly 200 days in the majority of the countries included.

On the other hand, a rolling 50 day cycle of looser mitigation measures followed by 30 days of relaxing would reduce the R number to 0.8 - insufficient to avoid an intensive care crisis and resulting in 3.5 million deaths.

This would include general social distancing, hygiene rules, case-based isolation, shielding of vulnerable groups, school closures or restricting of large public events.

The pandemic would last about a year in the western world - and 18 months or longer elsewhere.

The team also found after a continuous, three-month strategy of strict lockdown most would reduce new cases to near zero.

Looser, mitigation strategies would require approximately 6.5 months to reach the same point.

Related: Coronavirus crisis around the world (Photos)

But such prolonged lockdowns would be unsustainable in most countries due to potential knock-on impacts on economy and livelihood.

Co author Professor Oscar Franco, of the University of Bern, Switzerland, added: "Our study provides a strategic option that countries can use to help control Covid-19 and delay the peak rate of infections.

"This should allow them to buy valuable time to shore up their health systems and increase efforts to develop new treatments or vaccines.

"There is no simple answer to the question of which strategy to choose. Countries - particularly low-income countries - will have to weigh up the dilemma of preventing Covid-19 related deaths and public health system failure with the long-term economic collapse and hardship."

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Stay at home as much as possible to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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