The government has set out five tests that must continue to be met  each time restrictions are eased.

1 Ensuring the NHS has adequate capacity;
2 A ‘sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate;
3 Rate of infection (the R rate) being kept below 1;
4 A sufficient supply of tests and PPE; 
5 Confidence that any adjustments would not risk a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS.

The first two of these tests are generally accepted to have
been met for several weeks now. The other three are not really susceptible to scientific proof one way or the other. How, where and under what conditions is the R rate to be measured? What level of testing should be regarded as “sufficient”?  And how is the risk of a second peak to be assessed? The government’s formula that it is “guided by the science” is almost meaningless, since “the science” has not managed to inform us, in any useful numbers, who has had the virus, and who hasn’t, who might be at risk as carrier and who has developed immunity. 

There is, moreover, no scientific agreement as to how the coronavirus is transmitted. Take the measure of minimum social distance to be kept between all except members of the same household. It’s been stipulated as two metres in the UK and the USA. But the World Health Organisation advice is to maintain distance of “at least one metre”; France and Italy have adopted the one metre minimum; Germany and Australia require 1.5 metres. 

Local councils, including Hastings, are being paid to erect barriers, paint markings and run an advertising campaign to maintain the two metre stipulation. Is that necessary or desirable? And, even if it is, do council-led one way pedestrian systems, physical markings and signage really assist? It is hard to believe that this is the best use of £82,000 of public expenditure, and it sounds like Cllr Forward may not believe it either – though, as she indicates (see news article above), the council is required to show gratitude as it jumps through the bureaucratic hoops to earn it.


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