Scotland's 'circuit breaker': What are the benefits?

Scotland now seems set for a "circuit breaker" lockdown this month, which may coincide with the school holidays at the start of next week.
Nicola Sturgeon is poised to announce a "circuit breaker" lockdown this weekNicola Sturgeon is poised to announce a "circuit breaker" lockdown this week
Nicola Sturgeon is poised to announce a "circuit breaker" lockdown this week

The move would mean a "short, sharp" package of measures lasting a fortnight. But what are the benefits of this approach?

The strategy has been discussed in some detail in recent months by scientific experts advising governments and it provides a two-fold benefit.

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Nicola Sturgeon likely to make lockdown announcement tomorrow
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Nicola Sturgeon likely to make lockdown announcement tomorrow

There is an immediate reduction in the rate of growth of cases, the so called ‘R’ number', but also a significant decline in the overall number of cases.

Scotland's acting chief medical officer Gregor Smith explained: "Whilst you can reduce ‘R’ to a level that perhaps slows that rate of growth and slows that rate of transmission, what you also do is that you reduce the number of people who have the virus and then infect other people as well.

"So further down the line it slows the epidemic curve and you have a much lower level of cases several weeks later than you would have done if you had not had that reset as well.

"So its two advantages are both to reduce the rate of growth by doing that in a short, sharp way and minimising the harm in other types of sectors, but also reducing the prevalence of the virus and the number of people who are infected as well at the same time."

This is part of the reason why the Scottish Government placed so much emphasis during the summer on driving the virus to as low a level as possible.

It was known that when everyday activity resumed and the country "opened up" that case numbers would also rise.

But a higher R number of say 1.5 - where every infected person passes it on to an average of 1.5 others - with a low number of cases is a very different proposition than with a higher base number of cases. It means the spread becomes more manageable.

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And as the prospect of a vaccine looms, perhaps in the early part of next year, the value of "short-term" measures to suppress Covid is viewed as useful tool while awaiting a more sustainable approach to tackling the virus.

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