There has been a lot of discussion recently about “circuit breaker lockdowns” and “circuit breaker controls”, but what are they and where do they come from?
Circuit breakers include measures similar to the ‘lockdown’ introduced in Ireland at the end of March.
They are designed to make big reductions in transmission in a short period of time. However, this is not always the case.
Where did the circuit breaker come from?
The term circuit breaker usually refers to the use of a short but rigid lockdown to significantly reduce the transmission of the Covid-19.
The approach is named after the devices used to shut down electrical circuits when a large amount of current is flowing.
In the context of the epidemic, the term was first used to refer to actions taken by the Singapore government in April.
When the virus was discovered in the country in January, it took until April for the state and state to implement a comprehensive lockdown, which includes restrictions on movement and congestion, closure of schools and non-essential business.
The circuit breaker was supposed to last only a month, but it was extended because the number of “unlinked cases” – circumstances in which the source of the transmission could not be identified – was not reduced. As a result, it officially ended about two months later.
Since Singapore has not entered the second wave, the extended circuit breaker seems to be succeeding, although the measures have been in place longer than expected.
However, the locked elements of the plan should not be seen in isolation. In April, masks were generally used compulsorily and the state was deployed with a strong inspection and contact tracing regime to ensure that the bed capacity was adequate.
It should also be noted that Singapore is still in the process of easing and has not entered the third phase of reopening.
The term “circuit breaker” means different things across different jurisdictions with different time limits and dimensions.
Like Singapore, other countries that have taken drastic measures for the planned short period have failed to meet their initial deadlines.
The 12-day extension of a lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 12 was described in some reports as a circuit breaker, but the government decided that it was not appropriate to move until September 23.
The strict restrictions imposed on August 2 in the Australian city of Melbourne are also known as circuit breakers. When a curfew was lifted and schools reopened, many other restrictions have now been in place for more than ten weeks.
Israel launched circuit breaker-style measures in mid-September as part of a planned three-week lockdown. However, these measures have also been expanded, and they still exist today, facing protests.
Not all circuit breakers include extensive lockdowns. Last Wednesday, pubs in central Scotland were ordered to close for more than two weeks as part of a circuit breaker move.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said short-term measures were the only way to reduce the spread of the virus. The Welsh health minister is reportedly considering such circuit breaker measures.
All-Island circuit breaker
On October 4, the NPET recommended that the Level 5 restrictions be applied for four weeks. The term circuit breaker was not used and instead the government decided to change the whole country to Level 3.
When tenant Leo Varadkar said a circuit breaker was needed, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was not being considered.
Taoist Michael Martin has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the two-week lockdown.
Similar restrictions are being discussed in Northern Ireland. Residents have been warned by their top medical and scientific advisers to prepare for a circuit breaker lockdown when the number of cases has skyrocketed.
However, one of the major concerns related to the implementation of a circuit breaker is the need to support and compensate thousands of businesses and employees.
Politicians in northern India have questioned whether such a lockdown, which has not been taken on both sides of the border, would be effective.
During a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week, Tavosich said the idea of an island-wide circuit breaker had not been discussed.