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Wales’ firebreak lockdown most effective at cutting Covid reproduction rate, study shows

24 Dec 2020 3 minute read
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford. Picture by CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Wales’ firebreak lockdown in October and November was the most effective at reducing the Covid-19 reproduction rate – cutting it by 44 per cent, a study has found.

In comparison, England’s four-week November tier system lockdown only cut the ‘R rate’ by 10 per cent under Tier Three measures and 2 per cent in Tier Two.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s lockdown cut the R rate by 35 per cent.

However, the effectiveness of Wales’ lockdown at cutting the R-rate was reduced to 32 per cent when schools reopened, and Northern Ireland’s to 22 per cent when schools reopened.

The paper goes on to suggest that England adopt a ‘Wales-style lockdown’ but lengthen it to four weeks rather than two as a means of combatting Covid-19 over winter.

“The model projects a reduction in transmission across all NHS England regions following the introduction of a 4-week Wales-type lockdown, with the closure of schools resulting in additional reductions in transmission,” the paper says.

The study, led by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was based on data available up to November 10.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford imposed the 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown between 23 October and 9 November.



The paper says that the “so-called firebreak measures in Wales” was “more comprehensive than the so-called circuit breaker measures in Northern Ireland”.

“During Northern Ireland’s so-called circuit breaker lockdown, non-essential retail remained open and so-called household bubbles of up to ten people from two households were allowed to mix,” it says.

“By contrast, during Wales’ so-called firebreak lockdown, non-essential retail was closed and residents were advised to stay at home and were prohibited from mixing with individuals from outside their households.”

In England the paper’s analysis shows “tier 3 restrictions are associated with a substantially greater reduction in mobility than are tier 2 restrictions. In turn, both lockdowns are associated with a greater reduction in mobility than are tier 3 restrictions, with the firebreak lockdown in Wales having a substantially greater effect than the circuit breaker in Northern Ireland.”

The paper goes on to recommend that more stringent lockdown measures as in Wales would outperform less stringent restrictions as in England.

“We projected that the lockdown policy announced to commence in England on Nov 5, with a similar stringency to the lockdown adopted in Wales, would reduce pressure on the health service and would be well timed to suppress deaths over the winter period, while allowing schools to remain open,” the paper says.

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