If you've been following the news in the past or week or so (it's kind of hard to avoid), you'll know that the UK has entered the "delay phase" of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But with so much content being shared across our various different social media feeds, it's easy to be confused or a bit lost when it comes to understanding what that actually means. So I talked to Alex Ruani, doctoral researcher in nutrition science education at University College London and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, and Dr Li Li, GP for healthcare app Babylon, to get a clear explanation.
What Is the "Delay Phase" of the coronavirus?
"The 'delay phase' is the second of a four-phase strategy devised by the UK government: contain, delay, research, and mitigate," said Ruani. Basically, we're now at the point where COVID-19 is unable to be contained, so instead, we need to try and delay it. "The goal of the 'delay phase' is to slow down the spread of coronavirus within the UK and minimise its impact during the cold season as much as possible," she continued.
What Does the Coronavirus "Delay Phase" Mean For the UK?
In short, the coronavirus 'delay phase' means that the government will be issuing a series of measures to slow the spread. "Not all at once, but gradually," said Ruani. "The first measure within the "delay phase" is to stay home and self-isolate for seven days if you develop a fever of at least 37.8 degrees Celsius or a new, persistent cough." Measures, for example, asking those over 70 years old to self-isolate, will continue to be introduced in the coming weeks.
On Monday, 16 March, the government announced even more stringent recommendations as part of the delay phase, which include asking all UK citizens to avoid pubs, restaurants, theatres, and bars, and advising those who are over 70 or who have underlying health conditions to avoid all face-to-face interaction as much as possible.
According to Dr Li, the UK is currently attempting to build up a "herd immunity" by relying on the young who contract the virus to become immune and asking those over 70s to self-isolate. "As we see from the current data from China, 80 percent of the infected population have little or mild symptoms and recover well," explained Dr Li. "People with underlying medical problems or the elderly are more susceptible to severe and critical infections (this is also evident by the UK fatality cases thus far)."
"We are hoping with the herd immunity, self-isolation of the over 70s, time, and warmer weather, we can delay and flatten the peak of the outbreak," Dr Li added. "This will ease the pressure on the medical system, buying us more time to test for drugs/vaccines and get more experience in its management."
How Does the Coronavirus "Delay Phase" Affect Me?
"We all have a part in the 'delay phase,'" said Ruani. At this stage, we need to minimise our risk of getting infected and infecting others through measures such as regular hand washing, self-isolation, social distancing, and avoiding nonessential travel. "We need to take a personal and social responsibility approach," added Ruani. "It is up to each of us and our own personal and social behaviours to reduce the rate at which the COVID-19 virus spreads so we can flatten the infection peak during the cold season."
It's also important that you "keep informed and up to date with the news — it's like the British weather and can change quickly," said Dr Li. However, as Ruani pointed out, "There is a lot of misinformation at the moment," so you should only be looking to credible sources. She recommended the WHO, the NHS, and "authorities who are dealing with this pandemic head on."
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the NHS, and GOV.UK.