Son preguntas que han ensombrecido la época festiva: ¿Se necesitarán nuevas medidas de Covid?, y de ser así, cuando y que forma tomarán?
El Grupo Asesor Científico para Emergencias (SABIO) has warned peak admissions could be comparable to, or even greater than, previous peaks without significant behaviour change or further interventions, but many Tory backbenchers have argued against legal restrictions.
Speaking on LBC on Monday morning, senior Tory Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, suggested medics “try and make out the worse possible case” and urged the prime minister to be “very, very cautious before introducing further measures”.
In the face of opposition from his own MPs, it is thought the prime minister is leaning towards issuing tougher guidance, rather than new legally binding restrictions.
Such an approach would avoid the need to recall parliament, which could take several days, and potentially appease backbenchers. But would guidance alone be enough to tackle the threat posed by Omicron?
When Prof Chris Whitty urged the public to exercise caution en 15 diciembre, and cut down on social contacts ahead of Christmas, it appeared to strike a chord with the public: retailers informó a far lower footfall than hoped in the run up to the festivities, while pubs and restaurants faced a swathe of cancellations.
Sage experts have noted that recently the growth rate of infections has slowed, but it is not yet clear if that is down to a reduction in social mixing – or other factors like people choosing not to get tested.
While some have argued that people should “be treated like adults” and messaging alone is enough to change behaviour, others have suggested it may not be enough.
Prof Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews, and a member of Spi-B – the behavioural sub group of Sage, said that whether advice alone works depends on three key factors – the first of which is whether the source is trusted.
A recent Savanta poll encontró 59% of people in Britain distrust Boris Johnson as a source of guidance on Covid, mientras a YouGov poll suggests less than a third of the public think the government is handling the coronavirus situation “very” or “somewhat” well.
Another factor, said Reicher, is whether the message is clear and the reality of the risk set out. “The problem here is that the government have been consistently messaging that there isn’t a serious risk but they would act if the data suggested there were. So the fact they aren’t introducing measures communicates that there still isn’t a risk and all the headlines will be about that," él dijo.
Finalmente, Reicher said people need support to self isolate, make classrooms safe and improve ventilation in public spaces.
“The Government’s hands off approach is as much about refusing to provide that support as to avoid any restrictions,” he said.“Giving us our freedom in a storm is akin to abandoning us to our fate.”
Prof Susan Michie, director of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change and also a member of Spi-B, added the impact of legal restrictions versus guidance is highlighted by adherence to mask wearing.
“The numbers dipped when there was advice only and then increased again when the legal requirement was reinstated,” she noted.
And while some people value personal freedom over and above a collective effort to manage the pandemic, she noted for others a lack of clear rules causes its own problems.
“Ambiguity can cause anxiety and strained relationships," ella dijo. “Rules relieve people of responsibility for deciding what is the best thing to do in situations that are often complex.”
Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof John Drury of the University of Sussex, another member of Spi-B, added that messages such as “stay alert” or “be vigilant” are open to multiple interpretations.
“Even well-informed people find it hard to keep up with the evidence in this pandemic. We either need clear leadership representing the collective will or properly organised support to equip members of the public with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions," él dijo. “Without one or other, we risk a chaotic and dangerous individualism.”