Local lockdowns can be effective, but this is what they need to work

Over the past few weeks, the government has gradually eased national lockdown measures. As the economy reopens, and people return to workplaces and spend more time in shops, pubs and restaurants, the number of contacts an individual has with other people will inevitably increase.

Since then, there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases following the lowest recorded estimate in June, as well as spikes in transmission in certain areas. In response, rather than locking down the whole country again, the government has brought in local lockdowns in affected areas.

National lockdown has a significant indirect effect on people’s health: fewer people go to hospital emergency departments when needed, and vaccination and cancer screening programmes are delayed. Local lockdowns, therefore, aim to control the spread of the virus in a specific area in response to a local spike of infections. They may be the best option we have for managing the pandemic before a vaccine becomes available.

A local lockdown has recently been imposed in Aberdeen following an increase in Covid-19 cases. Bars and restaurants there have closed and residents have been advised to remain home and limit travel. Greater Manchester, Preston and Leicester have also seen restrictions reinstated as case numbers have risen.

Internationally, local lockdowns have been used to control increasing case numbers – with further restrictions imposed in Australia, Germany, Italy and China.

Local lockdowns are not a perfect solution. They still create a disproportionate economic and social burden for the people living in those areas. Local businesses suffer, people are unable to go to work, and children may not be able to attend school. This type of lockdown is also difficult to enforce – the UK is a densely populated country and ensuring minimal movement inside or outside of a lockdown area is almost impossible.

Rochdale introduced tougher Covid-19 measures in July (EPA)

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