Long term social distancing: Impact on public life & public transport?

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underbank

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It would strike me, from looking at the above diagrams, that it actually might be viable to follow, with the resources provided by the Nightingale Hospitals and similar (remember, we didn't have those back in March, nor indeed that knowledge), a policy of shielding plus herd immunity and let it sweep through quite quickly.

This would have to be a more extreme version of shielding - for instance, care homes would have to be served by live-in staff with the doors closed other than for deliveries, and those deliveries made outside, zero-contact and all thoroughly disinfected before use.
Where will you find "live in staff" who are likewise happy never to go out? What if they want a weekend of or a holiday? They'd have to be quarantined strictly before they could be allowed to return to work.

Who is going to sterilise all the deliveries made? They'll have been handled numerous times by people who are no longer social distancing (warehouse, shop, driving workers etc), so will be at highest risk of being contaminated than they are now whilst most people are making at least some effort to SD.

What about tradesmen who have to go into the care homes - they'd need to be quarantined before they could go it otherwise they'd likewise be at high risk of taking the virus in.

It sounds easy in theory, but in practice, when most people are returning to not social distancing, the vulnerable and shielded are now going to be at higher risk than during lockdown.
 
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43066

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Where will you find "live in staff" who are likewise happy never to go out? What if they want a weekend of or a holiday? They'd have to be quarantined strictly before they could be allowed to return to work.

Who is going to sterilise all the deliveries made? They'll have been handled numerous times by people who are no longer social distancing (warehouse, shop, driving workers etc), so will be at highest risk of being contaminated than they are now whilst most people are making at least some effort to SD.

What about tradesmen who have to go into the care homes - they'd need to be quarantined before they could go it otherwise they'd likewise be at high risk of taking the virus in.

It sounds easy in theory, but in practice, when most people are returning to not social distancing, the vulnerable and shielded are now going to be at higher risk than during lockdown.
Shifts of week on week off, testing of before starting shifts. Pay people enough and they will be willing to do it.

Frankly anything has to be better than agency staff going to several different homes a week and spreading the virus with them.
 

yorksrob

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I agree, but many on here are advocating that perfectly healthy people (with disposable income they actively want to spend in the leisure sectors of the economy) should be in lockdown, or even shielding, for seemingly ever more.

I have seen no explanantion as to how stopping people spending money on activities which keep others in employment will benefit the economy.
Yes, it's tricky - there's obviously a balance to how quick any relaxation is. I think it's unrealistic that the whole country should be in lockdown for perpetuity. At the same time, I know that some people at more risk will justifiably be doing less risky activities - that's their call, however I see no reason why the rest of us shouldn't be supporting the economy when the relaxation allows.

Personally, I'm not knowingly in a high risk group. But then, I am a bit lardy and middle aged, so I'm not in the comparatively low risk group either, so whatever happens, I will be taking precautions.
 

yorksrob

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Why would any organisation say what they may do. It creates confusion. I know for a fact that this is happening and when it's planned and ready to go, will be announced.
Because it gives people confidence that their needs are at least being considered.

Someone once observed that people will wait for something for any amount of time - so long as they are still confident that what they are waiting for will eventually turn up. It's when they begin to wonder whether it will turn up at all that they begin to drift off.
 

Bletchleyite

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Where will you find "live in staff" who are likewise happy never to go out?
The answer is £££. Pay them enough and they will. Every man has his price.

What if they want a weekend of or a holiday? They'd have to be quarantined strictly before they could be allowed to return to work.
I recall the home that did do it did shifts of at least a week, I forget exactly how long. They could presumably be tested before returning; tests are available commercially now.

Who is going to sterilise all the deliveries made?
The home staff, wearing appropriate PPE.

What about tradesmen who have to go into the care homes - they'd need to be quarantined before they could go it otherwise they'd likewise be at high risk of taking the virus in.
A general caretaker could be one of the live-in staff. Beyond that each case would have to be managed very carefully.

It sounds easy in theory, but in practice, when most people are returning to not social distancing, the vulnerable and shielded are now going to be at higher risk than during lockdown.
It was actually done and that home had zero (0) cases.
 

edwin_m

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It would strike me, from looking at the above diagrams, that it actually might be viable to follow, with the resources provided by the Nightingale Hospitals and similar (remember, we didn't have those back in March, nor indeed that knowledge), a policy of shielding plus herd immunity and let it sweep through quite quickly.

This would have to be a more extreme version of shielding - for instance, care homes would have to be served by live-in staff with the doors closed other than for deliveries, and those deliveries made outside, zero-contact and all thoroughly disinfected before use.

Indeed, if it is the case that immunity lasts about 12 months, you need it to sweep through quickly if that approach is to be followed.

Interesting. Is that, I wonder, what's effectively happening in Sweden?

45-60 is a very wide group, FWIW, and I suspect if you split it into 5 year chunks you'd find most were 55-60.
Let's try the numbers on that interesting idea.

From a post above, roundly 30000 of 40000 deaths have been in over-75s. So let's assume over-75s can be 100% shielded, which would take the death rate down from maybe 1% to 0.25% and the hospitalization rate down to say 2.5% (these are guesses as no good figures are available that I know of).

If we have 30000 beds available for Covid and the average stay for those hospitalized is two weeks then the hospital system has a capacity of 15000 admissions per week. So that would equate to 600,000 cases a week. 60% herd immunity would take well over a year, assuming everyone infected is immune for long enough. This is on a set of optimistic assumptions assuming the cases can be exactly managed to match hospital capacity - in practice it would be quite a bit longer.

The other problem with this is that no older people would have been exposed, and as soon as care homes etc were released from lockdown there is a risk that the virus would tear through them as it has with many already. So release might have to be on a gradual basis after herd immunity is reached.
 

CaptainHaddock

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If you can afford to pay over half the country's wages, you could afford that instead.
Care homes are privatedly owned and nothing to do with the government. Considering the high fees many care providers charge, you'd expect them to be able to fund any increase in staff wages themselves.
 

43096

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Sadly there is a total lack of commonsense in palce - people are apparantly already not even considering social distanceing in places like supermarkets where it is needed. If you drop it in places like resteraunts then it'll only get worse in other places. We are also back to the issue of just having people who are vulnerable shut away for an awfully long time as there seems no will to solve that issue in any way either.
The lack of common sense is on an unprecedented global scale. The world has totally lost the plot and any sense of rationality and risk understanding has been totally ignored.
 

Mag_seven

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Just a reminder that if we wish to discuss the situation in care homes we have a dedicated thread here:

 

6862

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The lack of common sense is on an unprecedented global scale. The world has totally lost the plot and any sense of rationality and risk understanding has been totally ignored.
I agree with this in the sense that the fatality rates are very low and people do not understand or they refuse to recognise this. But there is also the fact that in the western world many of us have been have been living in a sanitised and cotton-wool wrapped world for much of the past century, and now people are realising (many of them for the first time in their lives) that illness and possible death are a very real part of life. The risk of serious illness or death from this virus is low, but people are over-reacting to this very small risk, because they have been largely shielded from it before this.

Until people start to understand the risk properly, the damaging and disruptive measures we are currently subjected to will continue, because people will rely on the government to protect them.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Yes I read 25% too. It's nowhere near half the country's wages.
Judging by the obvious higher levels of work activity going in verdant St Albans , the number of people back at work is increasing quite rapidly - 4 of my family of 5 are at work as we speak , only 1 working from home and she goes back to London next week. Builders , for example , are in full pre shutdown work , there are considerably more shops etc open etc. (and obviously more to come) - so the level of subsidy is clearly reducing. This all helps the economy but obviously some way to go.
 

Huntergreed

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I agree with this in the sense that the fatality rates are very low and people do not understand or they refuse to recognise this. But there is also the fact that in the western world many of us have been have been living in a sanitised and cotton-wool wrapped world for much of the past century, and now people are realising (many of them for the first time in their lives) that illness and possible death are a very real part of life. The risk of serious illness or death from this virus is low, but people are over-reacting to this very small risk, because they have been largely shielded from it before this.

Until people start to understand the risk properly, the damaging and disruptive measures we are currently subjected to will continue, because people will rely on the government to protect them.
Exactly that’s a good way to put it. Sadly it seems that even the government fall into this category of perceiving the risk of this virus to be much higher than it actually is. Up here in Scotland, some of the guidelines outlined in the exit strategy are frankly ludicrous. We’re supposed to remain within a 5 mile radius of our homes until August, and this if not changed will literally kill the tourist/travel/hospitality industries. I would argue we need to look at ways of getting the younger half of the population back to normal ASAP to try and salvage what’s left of the economy and to try and get things in a state better than this overly cautious state of fear that many seem to be living under right now. The problem is the government with their initial fear based messaging has scared folk way out of proportion and they’re now either reluctant to admit this or are themselves over perceiving the risks of this virus to many parts of the population.
 

SuperNova

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Because it gives people confidence that their needs are at least being considered.

Someone once observed that people will wait for something for any amount of time - so long as they are still confident that what they are waiting for will eventually turn up. It's when they begin to wonder whether it will turn up at all that they begin to drift off.
And when you say that you're looking at doing something that doesn't materialise - it's used as a stick to beat you with not to mention the gossip and rumours that spread like wildfire. The right thing to do is work behind the scenes on a coherent plan and once that's achieved, let staff and passengers know.
 

yorksrob

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And when you say that you're looking at doing something that doesn't materialise - it's used as a stick to beat you with not to mention the gossip and rumours that spread like wildfire. The right thing to do is work behind the scenes on a coherent plan and once that's achieved, let staff and passengers know.
That is true. The best thing to do in that case is to assure people that you're working on it, but hold back on what you think that exact outcome might be.
 

Huntergreed

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The more I look at the situation and consider the benefits and hindrances of social distancing in many places, the more I'm beginning to realise how it's simply impractical as a long term solution in many settings.

Schools: Social distancing in schools, especially at an overly cautious 2m, is going to reduce the level of education that we can deliver to children, that's a fact. No amount of online learning can substitute a face to face lesson with a qualified teacher, and using the part time approach is, inevitably, going to lead to one or two aspects of children's education being significantly worsened. Given the risk to children is so infinitesemally small, could it not just be accepted that socially distancing pupils is impractical and causes more damage than it does good? If we ask teachers to avoid using staff rooms for breaktimes to prevent the spread, prevent children from going 'off campus' at break times and give the school a thorough clean every day after use, surely the risk of the virus spreading isn't that large (children are shown to rarely if ever spread to adults) that it justifies lowering the standard of education that we deliver, which will have lifelong implications.

Transport: This is a difficult one. A far more sensible and clear policy needs to be devised than is currently in place. On long distance intercity services, simply move to a system of compulsory reservations, in which in each bay of two one seat is available and in each table two out of four seats are available. Enforce compulsory mask wearing and declassify first class for the medium term until this crisis is over with. This would put capacity at just under 50%, which combined with asking people to drive, I would think should be sustainable for intercity services. Commuter services are a difficult solution admittedly. We cannot allow the 'sardines in a can' style crowding that was commonplace before to return, as this would indeed risk overwhelming the health board and make a very fast spreading ground. Enforce compulsory mask wearing, and perhaps you could enforce a rule that you if you travel you must have a seat, otherwise the system risks being completely overcrowded. With mask wearing, a continued emphasis on 'Work from home' and emphasising transport should only be used where walking, cycling or driving isn't possible, this may just work, provided we were able to a more 'full' timetable. Exceptions would have to be made for those who were needing to catch a train but where capacity was full, but if we actively discourage transport use as far as possible for the mean time then this system may work.

Workplaces: Social distancing in certain workplaces is indeed possible. In office settings all desks should be kept 2m apart where possible, and perhaps perspex screens installed to prevent spread via droplets. In retail setting this becomes more difficult, but I think reducing the 2m down to 1m would certainly be a step in the right direction. Contactless payments where possible, and if we enforced mask wearing then this would drive the risk down to negligible levels. Hand sanitiser available for customers upon entry and exit (perhaps compulsory?) to prevent spread via touching surfaces/items.

Hospitality: This is a more difficult industry to try and distance. Fast food and takeaway outlets should offer drive through and takeaway services only (ie no 'sitting' in McDonalds or KFC) and enforce 1m queueing systems. Cafes and restaurants could simply work on a reservation only basis, with socially distanced (1m) tables allowing for small groups to visit together without risking spreading to everyone in the building. This would simply be a case of 'phone up' before you want to go in and see if there's availability, anything from a week to 5 minutes before you are intending to visit. It may be a small inconvenience, but it would certainly be better than not allowing these establishments to open which would effectively kill the industries.

Pubs/Clubs: This is arguably one of the toughest industries to try and reopen safely. Pubs would almost certainly be limited to a certain capacity, but with enforced 1-2m distancing they will simply not be sustainable as in many cases that would allow little more than 2-3 customers inside. Perhaps a more table style service would work in these settings, with ordering happening through an app (Wetherspoons for instance), however given the sheer number of people that frequent these places on a weekend especially, reopening these establishments with any significant level of social distancing required is not viable. It's going to have to be a decision to either open with minimal restrictions or stay closed until case numbers really start to fall.

Tourism/Hotels: Tourist hotspots are going to be tricky to manage admittedly, however if we have a slightly stricter enforcement of distancing than we do at the moment (Bournemouth beach this weekend for instance), then I see no reason why these couldn't open at a reduced capacity. For 'walk-around' attractions such as museums, galleries etc. these would simply need to be booked in advance, and for outdoor spots (Highlands, Wales, Beaches) we would simply need a slightly more visible and consistent police enforcement on social distancing to ensure people aren't encouraged to break the rules. For cities such as London where it's often difficult to keep 2cm let alone 2m, it's going to be very tough. Perhaps pedestrianisation of many of the 'busy' streets (Oxford, Regent etc) could be done so that distancing would then be possible.

I think the key thing we need to do first of all is move the 'standard' distance down to 1m, as this is certainly a step in the right direction. The measures I have proposed above are more workable in my view, but only in the short/medium term. If we want to get the economy into a better state, social distance is simply impossible for more than another 3-4 months. I stand by what I said before in that I don't see why under 55's should be required to distance when the risk posed to them is literally tiny , but aside from advising the elderly and those with underlying conditions to keep their distance, I really don't see how social distancing can continue much beyond August/September, without the complete collapse of the economy, as it would simply be unviable and capacity would be reduced to a point where it wouldn't be possible to return the economy to a healthy state.

Abandoning social distancing has negative consequences for the small minority of the population who are most at risk of the disease.

Economic collapse has very negative consequences for everyone and in my view is something we should be trying much harder to avoid than suppressing the virus, given the peak is now past. That's not to say we should abandon our measures completely yet as that would be dangerous and almost certainly cause a second peak, but we need to start making it clear that the next few months/years are going to be more about protecting the economy and our way of life, not waiting until the death rate gets to 0, which is what many people on social media seem to be waiting for before they return to work/send kids back to school.
 

43066

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If we want to get the economy into a better state, social distance is simply impossible for more than another 3-4 months.
Indeed.

It’s already physically impossible on some services as I found this morning. There has been a steady increase in travel over the last couple of weeks - and we don’t even yet have non essential retail etc. open.

Personally I’m extremely pleased to see passenger numbers rising. I’m far more concerned about the economy than I am about the virus, at this point.
 

Bikeman78

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The more I look at the situation and consider the benefits and hindrances of social distancing in many places, the more I'm beginning to realise how it's simply impractical as a long term solution in many settings.


Transport: This is a difficult one. A far more sensible and clear policy needs to be devised than is currently in place. On long distance intercity services, simply move to a system of compulsory reservations, in which in each bay of two one seat is available and in each table two out of four seats are available. Enforce compulsory mask wearing and declassify first class for the medium term until this crisis is over with. This would put capacity at just under 50%, which combined with asking people to drive, I would think should be sustainable for intercity services. Commuter services are a difficult solution admittedly. We cannot allow the 'sardines in a can' style crowding that was commonplace before to return, as this would indeed risk overwhelming the health board and make a very fast spreading ground. Enforce compulsory mask wearing, and perhaps you could enforce a rule that you if you travel you must have a seat, otherwise the system risks being completely overcrowded. With mask wearing, a continued emphasis on 'Work from home' and emphasising transport should only be used where walking, cycling or driving isn't possible, this may just work, provided we were able to a more 'full' timetable. Exceptions would have to be made for those who were needing to catch a train but where capacity was full, but if we actively discourage transport use as far as possible for the mean time then this system may work.
Public transport is definitely a tricky one. By all accounts, it's already starting to get "too busy" around London and around beach destinations on sunny days. Elsewhere I believe it's still largely dead. How many people will actually come back to the railways? Will the government fund largely empty trains for at least 18 months?

Using valley lines as an example, the main passenger flows are commuters, shoppers going to Cardiff (especially on Saturdays) and people going to Barry Island. The first one will probably largely be solved by more people working from home. The second could be solved by more people driving although that will make the already grim queues for the car parks even worse. No idea how you would solve the Barry Island beach problem. There isn't enough space to park. Pre virus the trains were rammed from Cardiff on sunny days during school holidays or at the weekend.
 
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43066

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Public transport is definitely a tricky one. By all accounts, it's already startig to get "too busy" around London and around beach destinations on sunny days. Elsewhere I beleive it's still largely dead. How many people will actually come back to the railways? Will the government fund largely empty trains for at least 18 months?

Using valley lines as an example, the main passenger flows are commuters, shoppers going to Cardiff (especially on Saturdays) and people going to Barry Island. The first one will probably largely be solved by more people working from home. The second could be solved by more people driving although that will make the already grim queues for the car parks even worse. No idea how you would solve the Barry Island beach problem. There isn't enough space to park. Pre virus the trains were rammed from Cardiff on sunny days during school holidays or at the weekend.
Not everyone can work from home.

The main thing that will bring people back to commuting is when furlough ends and they are instructed to return to work by their employer. They will then have the choice of either doing so, or (quite rightly) facing the sack.

EDIT: and of the people I know doing jobs where they can work from home, many of them have already started going into the office once or twice a week.

Many people who can work from home have no desire to do so all the time. It’s more like one or two days from home, and the rest in the office, in my experience.
 

philosopher

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Economic collapse has very negative consequences for everyone and in my view is something we should be trying much harder to avoid than suppressing the virus, given the peak is now past. That's not to say we should abandon our measures completely yet as that would be dangerous and almost certainly cause a second peak, but we need to start making it clear that the next few months/years are going to be more about protecting the economy and our way of life, not waiting until the death rate gets to 0, which is what many people on social media seem to be waiting for before they return to work/send kids back to school.
Given the situation we are in, I think we should be going all out on the contact tracing route, which in some East Asian countries have enabled them to keep the virus under control without a lockdown. We should ensure all those self isolated are paid their full wages, not statutory sick pay and are given a financial reward if it can be proved they self isolated fully. In addition all the contacts of those tested positive should be tested and if they tested positive, their contacts traced and so on. With aggressive contact tracing it should be a lot easier to ease the social distancing measures.

This may be expensive, but it is likely to be far cheaper than continued social distancing measures.
 

Reliablebeam

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Not everyone can work from home.

The main thing that will bring people back to commuting is when furlough ends and they are instructed to return to work by their employer. They will then have the choice of either doing so, or (quite rightly) facing the sack.

EDIT: and of the people I know doing jobs where they can work from home, many of them have already started going into the office once or twice a week.

Many people who can work from home have no desire to do so all the time. It’s more like one or two days from home, and the rest in the office, in my experience.
I agree with this - lately I've noticed my co-workers starting to feel very subdued and down in the dumps with working from home - the minority that claim to like it, even amongst strict office workers, usually have some sort of agenda (i.e. a suspicion the lack of oversight suits them) or are near the end of their careers and happy to do their own thing. It is simply not a natural condition for humans. The last three weeks or so, I have really had enough. It probably doesn't help that our employer is public sector and is taking a very risk averse approach to getting people back. I despair. Many of us are experimental scientists and I dread to think what unworkable rot our management will try and enforce on us. They might not get us back on-site until Christmas. Whilst this has been going on, several private sector scientific companies locally have continued working relatively normally, without any corona incidents!

The social distancing stuff is not plausible long term. I feel we have a slight advantage in the UK in being a bit stand-offish anyway, we're not, in the main, touchy-feely southern Europeans, but still, any government minister that believes this business will become a demented 'new normal' needs their head examined, urgently. Even in my public sector role, I have no idea how we will function effectively - how is the wealth generating private sector supposed to survive this?
 

Bikeman78

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Not everyone can work from home.

The main thing that will bring people back to commuting is when furlough ends and they are instructed to return to work by their employer. They will then have the choice of either doing so, or (quite rightly) facing the sack.

EDIT: and of the people I know doing jobs where they can work from home, many of them have already started going into the office once or twice a week.

Many people who can work from home have no desire to do so all the time. It’s more like one or two days from home, and the rest in the office, in my experience.
Yes I agree that not eveyone can work from home but most people working in Cardiff at the moment are not going by train. I will go back to the office as soon as I'm allowed. And I totally agree with your point about furlough. When people are faced with no job and no home, I bet most of them won't be worried about the virus any more and will just get on the train.
 

edwin_m

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There’s new evidence that the largest, most transit-rich cities on Earth are keeping infection rates low even while ridership remains high — not by shifting riders to cars, but by successfully promoting widespread mask use on buses and trains.

“The guidance from the CDC runs counter to the evidence emerging from Seoul, Beijing, and other large transit cities where millions of people continue to ride trains and buses every day and transmission rates remain very low,” said Ben Fried of TransitCenter.

Both the Korean and Chinese capitals were averaging over four million daily transit trips by early April — and those rates rose in the weeks that followed, even as case counts remained low. Japan, which has the third highest rate of transit ridership in the world, found no infection events linked to commuter trains after performing rigorous contact tracing on almost 17,000 confirmed cases.
 

Greenboy

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Yes I agree that not eveyone can work from home but most people working in Cardiff at the moment are not going by train. I will go back to the office as soon as I'm allowed. And I totally agree with your point about furlough. When people are faced with no job and no home, I bet most of them won't be worried about the virus any more and will just get on the train.
I think the virus or the possibility of passing it onto family members is likely to be of greater concern.
 

NorthOxonian

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I think the virus or the possibility of passing it onto family members is likely to be of greater concern.
I really don't. This virus has to be put into perspective - it has a death rate of something like 0.5%, and is vastly lower for those under 50 with no underlying health conditions. That isn't to say it isn't a concern, of course, but even those in the most vulnerable groups (over 80, with health conditions) have something like a 75% chance of surviving. It's not the plague, and it can't be allowed to cause economic devastation and misery for decades to come.

Social distancing and the lockdown could cost millions their livelihoods (studies have estimated a third of jobs in some districts are at risk). Even worse is the social consequences (which you can't really mitigate, social distancing measures are incompatible with meaningful interaction) - loneliness is a huge risk to people's mental health and for many social distancing is taking away everything which makes life worth living.
 
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