Coronavirus: Why is the UK not shutting schools like other countries?

The differences can be partly explained by the fact some of these countries are further into their epidemics. But it’s clear the UK has adopted a more nuanced approach.

Computer simulations indicate the UK is in the early stages of its epidemic which is expected to rise sharply in four weeks and peak in 10 and 14 weeks’ time.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, and chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty have made the judgement call that it is too soon to impose severe restrictions at this stage.

Such restrictions might last several months and risk “self-isolation fatigue”, with people leaving their homes just as the epidemic was at its height. The elderly are particularly at risk of developing severe symptoms. But many of them are already isolated. Cutting them off from their communities at this stage, when the risks are still relatively low, would create unnecessary difficulties for them.

Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty have also advised against the suspension of mass gatherings. Again, their computer models indicate this would be less effective and more disruptive than the measures they have recommended: hand washing and asking people to self-isolate if they show symptoms of the disease.

These measures, if correctly implemented, could cut the peak of cases by 20%, says Sir Patrick.

“People are very much more likely to catch the virus from a family member or a friend somewhere in a small space rather than a big space [such as a sporting stadium],” he said.

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