Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday May 14, 2020
‘Social bubbles’ allow you to see friends as coronavirus lockdowns ease — but they might not work
As more countries look to lift their coronavirus lockdowns, “social bubbles” have been floated as an idea of how to ease restrictions, but experts say they could be difficult to put into practice.
A social bubble entails allowing people to form a group with a select number of people they are allowed to see socially outside their own household.
They have been put forward as a way to continue containing the spread of Covid-19, which has infected more than 3.6 million people worldwide and killed over 257,000, according to the latest figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
New Zealand — which has been heralded as an example for bringing its coronavirus cases down to zero — has already implemented social bubbles. It lifted certain lockdown restrictions last week and allowed people to expand their bubbles to contact with close family outside their own households.
Meanwhile, Belgium is reportedly considering allowing people to socialize with a group of up to 10 people. It currently allows people to meet up with two others outside their household, so long they are outside and keep a distance from each other.
William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said social bubbles were “certainly a component of how, once the initial outbreak is under control, measures could be refined.”
However, he added that “as the size of the cluster grows, the probability that one of its members could become infected obviously increases.”
Mike Tildesley, an associate professor who specializes in infectious disease control at the University of Warwick, said that while “in principle, it’s a really sensible strategy,” practically it would be difficult to implement.
He also said that narrowing down a list of friends — and ensuring that those friends also have the same list — sounded like a “social nightmare.”
“You could envisage this situation where you name a group of friends, they name a group of friends that includes you, but it has some people that aren’t included on your list and all you’ve got is some sort of porous process that (the coronavirus) filters through the population more slowly that it did before,” Tildesley added. (CNBC)