MANCHESTER, England — Some advice for travelers in England: Brush up on your map-reading skills and set your news apps to rapid refresh.
A second wave of the coronavirus is looming, and the new rules are coming thick, fast and hyperlocal.
On a trip through Lancashire this week, I learned that the county had four different sets of rules in different places at the same time: Partygoers could revel long into the night in Blackpool, while pubs had to shut early — at 10 p.m. — in Bolton, the area of the U.K with the highest rate of coronavirus infections.
In Blackburn, restaurants were told to only seat customers who had booked in advance and were all from the same household.
Apply Blackpools rules in Blackburn and you could get a hefty fine, so youd better get your local geography straight.
In England, increasingly dire — and increasingly frequent — health warnings from the government are now at the center of public conversation.
“Of course this isnt how we want things to be,” said Harry Williamson, 25, who had been posted outside a Manchester burger joint to ensure patrons do what they are supposed to. “But we have to follow the rules, and whatever the government says, we just have to do it,” he said.
In England, increasingly dire — and increasingly frequent — health warnings from the government are now at the center of public conversation, just as they were back in March.
On Monday, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned virus cases could soon start rising exponentially.
“At the moment, we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days,” he said.
As I walked across a remote hillside in Cumbria, north of Lancashire, on a recent weekday, I met a walker coming the other way, and instead of the usual “hello” she said: “At least we can feel a bit safer up here, right?”
As fear of the virus grows, Englands northwest, which includes big cities like Liverpool and Manchester as well as the county of Cumbria, where I grew up, has increasingly emerged as a prime example of one way Europe is handling the coronavirus pandemic: the heavy-handed way.
The state has intervened invasively in citizens lives for nearly seven months, first in the form of a strict lockdown, and now in the form of this new toolkit of local measures, from mandatory masks on public transport to early pub closing to limits on group sizes and household interaction.
The government said it expects people to follow its new web of local rules and will slap fines on those who fail to do so. It has also said it may need to do more.
Meanwhile, in my current home of Stockholm, Sweden, the authorities have made very different decisions, and the country has come to represent the other extreme of how Europe is handling the pandemic: the light-touch approach.
As I emerged from Stockholms main airport on Monday, after my first visit to England since last fall, the differences were striking.
In the town of Blackburn, England, restaurants were told to only seat customers who had booked in advance and were all from the same household | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Gone were the incessant recorded announcements about respecting distancing rules and the ketchup-colored signs with their stark message: “You must wear a face covering unless exempt. Fines in operation.” On the bus out of Stockholm airport, no one wore a mask and no one mentioned the virus.
Since the start of the pandemic, Swedens lead epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has focused on stability and sustainability in his guidance and sought to slow the virus rather than stamp it out.
From the start, he suspected COVID-19 could be around for longer than populations could live with harsh restrictions on their freedom, so he kept things simple: wash your hands, keep away from other people, stay home if you are sick.
He said full lockdowns would erode peoples wider wellbeing — including their mental health — while excessive tinkering with a strategy would erode a populations willingness to comply with it.
“We have had the same level of restrictions the whole time, and have not had this jerkiness in our restrictions you see in some other parts of Europe” — Anders Tegnell, Swedens lead epidemiologist
Last week, Tegnell said the brighter outlook in Sweden now might in part be explained by his restrained and steady approach.
“We have had the same level of restrictions the whole time, and have not had this jerkiness in our restrictions you see in some other parts of Europe,” Tegnell told a press conference. “That means we havent seen the kind of jumpiness in case numbers which you get when you open up a society and the contact between people increases sharply over a short time.”
While the U.K. and Sweden might now be at either end of the “hands-on” to “hands-off” spectrum of government pandemic responses, it wasnt always that way.
Back in March, they were the two European states most closely associated with the idea of pursuing herd immunity, which occurs when a sufficient share of a population has been infected by a virus — and has therefore become immune to it — and the virus transmission is curtailed.
In the spring, Sweden and the U.K both looked set to allow a slow spread of the virus among the population, while protecting the most vulnerable, in the hope that herd immunity would develop — but in March, they parted ways.
London, spooked by rising death rates, locked down, while Stockholm pressed on, leaving schools, businesses and borders open.
After a similar spike in excess mortality at theRead More – Source