The UK government has not ordered the closure of the country's schools in its latest package revealed on Monday to slowdown the spread of the coronavirus. But in a tightening of its policies introduced at the end of last week the government has now been forced by scientific and medical evidence to recognise that there should be more stringent controls, especially on the movement of people.
All members of a family with even one person who has symptoms of Covid-19 now have stay at home for 14 days. The over-70s have been asked to keep at least a metre away from other people and soon they may have to stay at home for weeks, even if they do not have symptoms. People have been asked to work at home when possible and not to use public transport. British nationals have also been urged to avoid non-essential foreign travel for 30 days. All places of entertainment, cinemas, theatres, pubs and restaurants have been advised to close.One of the reasons given for the decision not to close schools is that children appear to be less vulnerable to the virus, although there is no evidence that this also applies to their teachers. Another is that the country's nurses and doctors, who are in critically short supply, will need to stay home to look after their children if the schools close.
The country's National Health Service (NHS) is one of the major weaknesses in Britain's ability to combat Covid-19. According to research by the Nuffield Trust, which is an independent health think tank, there were 94,000 full-time vacancies advertised for hospital and community care positions in the NHS in 2018. 40,000 of these were in nursing-related jobs. Doctors training in hospitals were also below optimum levels, with 1 in 10 post-graduate training positions unfilled. Over the last two years of Brexit, the situation has deteriorated further, with EU nurses and doctors deciding to go home rather than stay in the UK.Figures published by the Financial Times
also show that the UK has about half the acute care beds in hospitals that Italy has. According to the OECD figures quoted by the Financial Times
the UK is also lagging behind Germany, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain in its allocation of acute care beds.
The Financial Times has also reported that government is “scrabbling to piece together a design for a British-made medical ventilator from scratch.” The health minister has revealed that there are only 5,000 ventilators available at present and the government now estimates that probably about 30,000 will be needed. The Financial Times reports that most of the 60 manufacturers contacted have replied that it is unrealistic to think that a new, safe, all-British design, (a certified foreign design needs a licence) can be produced from materials available in the UK in that quantity in only two weeks. The government, which is weeks behind other European governments in its anti-coronavirus planning, is now worried that it will not be able to import supplies of such medical equipment from abroad in time to meet the crisis.
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