YOUNG people could be let out of coronavirus lockdown first, experts say.
Britain is currently in its third week of lockdown, with the Government saying today the country is not yet “at the stage” where it could be lifted.
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However, scientists are now suggesting that, when coronavirus social distancing restrictions can be softened, 20-30-year-olds who no longer live with their parents should be released first.
They say this would be the best route out of lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic and avoid an “extraordinary recession.”
On top of this, they point out that unlike the older generations, this section of the population is statistically less likely to die from coronavirus, or develop severe symptoms.
However, they admitted that there is “no clear exit strategy” at present to show how the country might eventually return to normal.
Researchers from the University of Warwick made their proposal in a new briefing paper entitled ‘The case for releasing the young from lockdown: A briefing paper for policymakers.’
In the paper, they argued that young adults could become increasingly restless over time and may end up choosing to flout lockdown restrictions – risking public safety.
Instead, they say releasing the 2.6 million young adults who work in the private sector would be the best option and could give the economy a boost and potentially save jobs.
Despite this, they say young adults living with their parents or other older adults would need to remain in lockdown to avoid passing the deadly bug on to their households.
Older adults would then subsequently be returned to normal life through staged releases, using antibody tests to identify those who had already recovered from Covid-19.
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Speaking about the proposal, economist and behavioural scientist Andrew Oswald, from the University of Warwick, said: “The rationale for lockdown is to save lives in the short-to-medium-term.
“However, severe damage is being done to the economy, future incomes, unemployment rates, levels of national debt and the freedoms we enjoy as a modern society.
“Before long, some balance will have to be struck.”
Before long, some balance will have to be struck
Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick
If implemented, such a policy might see as many as 4.2 million young adults be able to resume their normal daily lives, data from the Office of National Statistics and the Annual Population Survey suggest.
Of this number, 2.6 million work in the private sector and are therefore more likely to lose either income or their jobs entirely in the event of a prolonged lockdown.
According the researchers, releasing these workers could help small business to be opened to stimulate the economy, or they’d play an integral part in the UK’s delivery and transport network.
On top of this, preventing half of young private sector workers from losing their jobs could generate a £13 billion per year for the economy, researchers found.
Despite this, the University of Warwick researchers did admit there were some potential issues with their proposal.
Firstly, while young adults between the ages of 20–30 are less likely to die from coronavirus or develop severe symptoms, the team estimated that their proposal could lead to around 630 premature deaths compared with a longer lockdown.
Secondly, the say it could cause resentment and the UK Government would need to clearly communicate the rationale for the aged-based release.
Police would also be required to enforce the new partial-release policy, as they have been the present lockdown.
“We support the existing lockdown strategy, but in the future it will be necessary to allow citizens to go back to some kind of normal life,” said behavioural economist Nick Powdthavee of the Warwick Business School.
“Unless a vaccine is suddenly discovered there are no risk-free or painless ways forward,” he added.
“If this policy were enacted, there would still be tragic cases and some pressure on the NHS, but the effects would be far smaller than if the wider population were released.”
“It could allow our society and economy to move forward in the footsteps of the young, while allowing older workers to share the economic rewards by providing supervision, mentoring, and managerial assistance electronically.”
The full recommendations of the briefing paper were published on the University of Warwick website.
Earlier today, the Government said Britain is “not at the stage” where where we can relax the lockdown yet – despite promises for a review by Monday.
Health minister Ed Argar repeated suggestions from Dominic Raab last night that the UK wasn’t ready to look at changing any of the rules until after the peak of the virus was seen to be over.
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That could mean the measures will stay in place past the three weeks Boris Johnson announced on March 23.
He told BBC News this morning: “The evidence is not yet there which will allow is to make a decision.
“We couldn’t want to judge or preempt that evidence. That isn’t a position we are in yet.”
Both Mr Raab and Professor Whitty stressed that Britain needs to reach the peak first before looking at whether the lockdown measures can be changed or relaxed.
Government sources stressed earlier that a formal review of the lockdown may not happen on Monday but would be around that date.
Professor Whitty said last night: “It’s really important we get to the point we are confident we are beyond the peak.
“There are a large number of different things we need to take into account here.”
However, in the coronavirus law which was rushed through the Commons last month, it says the Health Secretary must review the lockdown measures by the 16 April at the latest – next Thursday.
Meanwhile the London Mayor said today that the peak is not expected to be this weekend as previously thought.