23:48 GMT19 October 2020
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    Britain’s government has announced a new three-tier system of local lockdown measures to try to curb rising COVID-19 rates across the country. The new ‘Local COVID Alert Levels’ range between "medium", "high" and "very high" and will be implemented depending on local infection rates.

    Looking at these new measures in greater detail, Sputnik spoke to Renaud Foucart, a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Lancaster University.

    Sputnik: What criteria does the success of a 3-tier lockdown depend on?

    Renaud Foucart: I think, in particular a country like the UK, where policing is really by consent, you want people to be on board. I think if you want people to be on board, the three tiers must be different enough that people get the message. So, what I'm concerned about at the moment that when you look at the three tiers, there are three shades of orange. When people will be at the top tier, it will not be that different from the medium tier, and there is no actual three tier system, a green, orange, red light system if you want, but there is no actual green light. So, I think if you want it to work, what needs to be the case is that there is a top tier that is really an emergency but then when you go back to orange, it must be different enough.

    It must be different enough that people feel comfortable to live a life like that, I guess at least through Christmas, because if you don't have compliance; if you tell people that they need to follow harder, strict rules, but in fact, they're not following it, maybe the government is sort of covering itself. Then there needs to be a green light and maybe at the moment nobody's in the green light. But if you want to show that we've thought of the plan that will last for the future and again, we're here for the medium, the long term; what you don't want people to believe that there will always be stuck in shades of orange, there must be a tier that corresponds to green and that says we are the back to life as before. If you have those different settings, it will be much easier for people to understand the actual information the government has. A three-tier system is a good idea, you need to do something like that, and the government actually had started to have something like that at the beginning. You need to something like that; clear, differentiated, and for the medium and long run.

    Sputnik: Renaud, why are complaints from citizens so limited in your eyes?

    Renaud Foucart: Many people might believe they complied without really knowing it, because the rules are very complicated, but even assuming that the rules are very clear, I think alerts a system of reaction and overreaction. The government when you look at the initial assessments of SAGE, the want to get a result by assuming that compliance will be relatively low. So, say for instance, you want people to self-isolate and not to meet too many other people. Ideally, if they have symptoms, you want them to stay at home and not to mix with other households.

    In order to achieve that they give very precise examples like if you think of the rule of six; are you allowed to talk to another family in the park, if they have two children, when your family has one child. Everybody would think this is a minor breach, it is not breaking the spirit of the law. People believe that those are all different shades of rules, then you cannot be clear cut. So, I guess, clarity, a feeling that we are all on board, we are all doing this together, and a feeling of transparency of not being treated like children but really, we are doing this together. There was a lot of this back in March but we are not in March now. We had time to organise, we had time to think about long lasting rules and classification, and I think that's how you will get people on board.

    Sputnik: What areas should the government be focusing on to win back trust from the general public on the back of this new strategy?

    Renaud Foucart: There seems to be a big problem of mixing the science and politics the wrong way. The government is the only legitimates authority to decide about the big trade-offs between the economy and health. So, I'm not discussing that, it should be the decision of the government. But then the scientists must not have to think all the time about their relationship with government. So ideally, I think, much more independence for the advisor who is publishing the advice first, and then the government goes and tells the public this is the advice of the scientist but maybe we want to put more weight on the economy, and this is the trade and the decisions we are willing to make. When you think of the implementation of the three tiers no politics. At the moment this is about bargaining between politicians.

    Once politics starts to enter the equation, how do you want people to believe that this is really what they should do? Again, I think this should be a very clear statement. If there is a tier three like the one I was mentioning before when you close everything with the schools etc. it should come with full financial support, no discussion, no big bargaining, back to the furlough that there was in March and April. The UK is a country where you want the people to follow the rules because they believe in it and because they are on board. If this is all about politics they will not feel on board. So, I would say that independent advisors implementing the rules. So, it's not the scientist to need to do the politics. It's not the scientist to need to decide on the trader between the economy and health. That's for the elected politicians. That's democracy. However, no cheap politics on local lockdowns and bargains on difference in financial support and exchange of rules. To me, that's the big big move and would be very wise, very wise on the government to do that. We are the government, we make the big decisions, but then we delegate the implementation to independent, transparent scientific advisors.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    lockdown, infection, COVID-19
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