United Kingdom

Rule of six and 10pm curfew is likely to have had 'ZERO effect' on reducing contacts, study claims 

The 'rule of six' and 10pm curfew have likely had 'zero effect' in reducing the spread of Covid-19, research has suggested. 

Researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are the first to assess whether or not the controversial measures — first introduced in September — have had any effect. 

They interviewed thousands of people before and after the rules came into place about how many people they were meeting. 

Infected people are more likely to spread the coronavirus if they mix with lots of people, therefore limiting social contacts is considered key to preventing more cases.   

Under the 'rule of six', most participants said they had been seeing the same number of people as they did before, meaning the measure did not have the desired effect of reducing social contacts. 

Nearly one third said they had fewer contacts. But this was cancelled out by the fact 26 per cent said they had seen more people than before.  

Likewise for the 10pm curfew, researchers found 'near identical' numbers of people had increased and decreased their contacts since it was implemented.

In England's hotspots where there were tougher Covid-19 restrictions, locals claimed they had seen less than one fewer person than before. But scientists warned that this would have had barely any impact in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. 

The full national lockdown in March reduced the average number of daily contacts from about 10.8 to 2.8, according to the research, which was co-authored by SAGE member Professor John Edmunds. 

The findings suggest that neither measure has helped to cut the R rate, which the Government has put at the heart of the UK's battle against Covid-19. The R rate — the average number of people each Covid-19 infected patient infects — has increased since the nationwide lockdown restrictions were eased in the summer and has barely dropped since then.

The 'rule of six' and 10pm curfew have had 'zero effect' in reducing the number of friends and family people see, a survey has suggested. Under the 'rule of six' (second row) and 10pm curfew (third row), the majority of participants said they had been seeing the same number of people as they did before (orange) 

The 'rule of six' and 10pm curfew have likely had 'zero effect' in reducing the spread of Covid-19, research has suggested (stock)

The 'rule of six' was implemented across the UK on September 14 after cases crept up in August.  

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based medicine at Oxford University, said the rule of six policy 'should be binned'.

Writing in The Spectator alongside his colleague Professor Tom Jefferson last month, Professor Heneghan said the Prime Minister is making one 'catastrophic error after the other'.

The 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants came 11 days later, on September 22. 

The Government has not revealed why they chose it — but one reason is believed to be that people struggle to socially distance when they are drunk. 

86% CHANCE OF A COVID PATIENT IN A ROOM OF 50 PEOPLE IN LIVERPOOL

There is an 86 per cent chance there will be an infected person in a room of 50 in Liverpool, scientists say. 

A new interactive tool shows the odds of picking up the coronavirus at a social event in any part of the UK.

Developed by scientists at Georgia Tech University in the US, the website gives the odds of an infected person being in a room as a percentage.

While Liverpool has one of the highest rates, considering it is one of England's hotspots, the chance of a Covid-19 positive person being at a 50-person gathering in Somerset is just 14 per cent. 

The risk goes down the smaller the event size is. If ten people gathered in Liverpool, there is a 30 per cent chance someone there will have the coronavirus.  

The north-south divide in coronavirus hotspots is staggeringly clear in the map, which uses date from Public Health England.

In Blackburn with Darwen, for example, the risk of someone having the coronavirus in a room of 50 people is eight times higher than in Cornwall (85 per cent compared with 10 per cent).

While the chance of someone having the virus at a 50-person gathering in Nottingham is around five times higher than in West Sussex (85 per cent versus 16 per cent).

If the number of people was reduced to 10, there is a 32 per cent chance someone would have the coronavirus in Nottingham, compared with three per cent in West Sussex.  

There are disparities across London, too, where experts have argued against treating all boroughs the same when considering tougher Covid-19 restrictions. 

The chances of someone having the coronavirus at a 50-people event in Ealing is 42 per cent compared with 25 per cent in Bromley. 

The research shows how the risk of infection differs widely across the country, despite chief government scientists warning cases are rising in all corners. 

And the scientists behind it hope it will help individuals make decisions about whether they want to go somewhere with hordes of people. 

'If you know that there was a one in four chance… that someone in that pub or restaurant, or gathering had Covid-19... I would hope that would change someone's behaviour,' Joshua Weitz, a professor of biological sciences and physics at Georgia Tech, who helped create the map, told The Telegraph.

The research assumed that there were ten times as many cases in each area than figures suggest, given that testing cannot detect every infected patient. Some carriers will not show symptoms, thought to be account for around 20 per cent of all infections.

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland stronger restrictions banning household mixing came into force, while England was put under the three-tier lockdown system on October 12.

Ministers have been unable to produce any scientific evidence to support the two UK-wide restrictions, leading to immediate calls for them to be scrapped. 

Rebel Tories defied Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said the ban on gatherings of more than six people in England didn't make any sense, while the 10pm curfew crushed the hospitality sector. 

Forty-two Conservative MPs opposed the curfew measure in the Commons amid anger about it being hugely damaging to businesses. But it was approved by 299 votes to 82.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted to MPs that the 10pm curfew was a 'policy choice' rather than a scientific imperative.   

It can be difficult to assess the effect of restrictions immediately because it can take weeks for cases and hospital admissions to go down. And many virus-controlling measures come into effect alongside each other, making it hard to distinguish whether one factor is more effective than another. 

But the LHSTM team, led by Dr Christopher Jarvis, has been surveying members of the public since March to gauge how well policies work to reduce social contacts.

The whole point of Covid-19 restrictions, such as the rule of six, is to minimise how many people an individual interacts with, so that if they have the coronavirus they won't spread it to as many people. 

Dr Jarvis and colleagues asked 3,222 people across the UK about how many people they had met in the last 24 hours. Participants were not all asked the same questions. 

The study looked at responses in the two weeks before and after restrictions came into place. 

The majority of people (42.3 per cent) who were asked about their contacts before and after the rule of six had not changed how many people they saw day-to-day since the policy was announced. 

Nearly a third (31.6 per cent) saw fewer people, but a quarter (26 per cent) said they were seeing more people.

It means the restrictions are unlikely to have a significant impact on reducing people's social contacts, and therefore the odds of them catching or passing on the coronavirus. 

The average number of contacts among the respondents was two, both before and after the rule of six came into effect.   

The survey found that for the 10pm curfew, half (50.3 per cent) of people were seeing the same number of people as they were before it was implemented.

The rest were split equally between seeing more (24 per cent) and less people (25.6 per cent).

The authors of the paper wrote: 'There was no suggestion that 10pm closure of bars and restaurants has had an effect on reducing the mean number of contacts that participants make outside home, work, and school.'

There was slight change in the number of contacts in places with high Covid-19 cases, where there is likely to be some extra measures to curb the infection rate. 

People saw one less person a day on average, corresponding to an overall reduction of 23.5 per cent.

But the researchers said this would have a 'marginal' impact on the R rate when put into context.

The R rate is how many people one infected individual passes the coronavirus onto, and it changes depending on the impact of restrictions. The natural R rate for Covid-19 is thought to be around three, meaning every case results in three more. 

It's crucial for the R rate to stay under one to stop the coronavirus from spreading. Currently in the UK, it is thought to stand between 1.2 and 1.4.   

The full national lockdown in March reduced the average number of daily contacts from about 10.8 to 2.8, and this, in turn, reduced the R rate from about 2.6 to 0.6.

The researchers added there was some suggestion that the local restrictions were less effective in young adults, under the age of 30, many of whom said they were seeing more people than before.  

'We determine that the "rule of six" and encouraging people to work from home has seen the average person reduce contacts but these reductions are likely small,' the researchers concluded in the paper, which is yet to be peer reviewed by other scientists.  

'In contrast to national restrictions, there was a strong suggestion local restrictions reduced the number of contacts individuals make outside of work and school, though again, this effect was small in comparison to the national lockdown.' 

It comes as a new interactive tool shows the odds of picking up the coronavirus at a social event in any part of the UK.

Developed by scientists at Georgia Tech University in the US, the website gives the likelihood of an infected person being in a room as a percentage.

For example in Liverpool, which has one of the highest infection rates in England, the chance of an infected patient attending at a 50-person gathering is as high as 86 per cent. In contrast, it's just 14 per cent in Somerset.

The chance of a Covid-19 positive person being at a 50-person gathering in Liverpool is 86 per cent

In contrast, it's just 14 per cent in Somerset

The risk goes down the smaller the event size is. If ten people gathered in Liverpool, there is a 30 per cent chance someone there will have the coronavirus.  

The north-south divide in coronavirus hotspots is laid bare in the map, which uses up-to-date figures from Public Health England. 

In Blackburn with Darwen, for example, the risk of someone having the coronavirus in a room of 50 people is eight times higher than in Cornwall (85 per cent compared with 10 per cent).

While the chance of someone having the coronavirus at a 50-person gathering in Nottingham is around five times higher than in West Sussex (85 per cent versus 16 per cent).

If the number of people was reduced to 10, there is a 32 per cent chance someone would have the coronavirus in Nottingham, compared with three per cent in West Sussex.  

There is a 32 per cent chance someone would have the coronavirus in Nottingham at a gathering of ten people

This compares with only three per cent in West Sussex 

The chances of someone having the coronavirus at a 50-people event in Ealing is 42 per cent

In Bromley the risk is much lower at just 25 per cent, according to the interactive tool

There are disparities across London, too, where experts have argued against treating all boroughs the same when considering tougher Covid-19 restrictions. 

The chances of someone having the coronavirus at a 50-people event in Ealing is 42 per cent, compared with 25 per cent in Bromley. 

The research shows how the risk of infection differs widely across the UK, despite chief government scientists warning cases are rising in all corners. And the scientists behind it hope it will help individuals make decisions about whether they want to go somewhere with hordes of people. 

'If you know that there was a one in four chance… that someone in that pub or restaurant, or gathering had Covid-19... I would hope that would change someone's behaviour,' Joshua Weitz, a professor of biological sciences and physics at Georgia Tech, who helped create the map, told The Telegraph.

He also said that areas with a lower risk should not think they have 'carte blanche' to meet in very large groups without wearing masks.

'That will only again facilitate more spread,' he added.

'But it does imply that depending on the region there are absolutely different risk levels (for) large gatherings and that really does reflect ongoing and heterogeneous differences in circulating infections. 

The research assumed that there were ten times as many cases in each area than figures suggest, given that testing cannot detect every infected patient. Some carriers will not show symptoms, thought to be account for around 20 per cent of all infections. 

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