The government is now suggesting that in as much as 6 months time there will (most likely) be restrictions going on.
Just how long before ambulances need new tyres, lights or other spares to remain safe on the road. For that matter how long before nurses/doctors/etc. find they have an unroadworthy (and even downright dangerous) vehicle that means they’re reduced to walking – or worse, they end up in casualty following the crash.
The same goes for all the delivery vehicles – how long before they need work to remain safe ? How can these vehicles be maintained if garages, spares suppliers, and the factories that make them are closed for a period ?
With numerous industries effectively closed down, it’s not just these shortages – light bulbs, basic plumbing and electrical maintenance will all become impossible when warehouses run out of stock. Even toilet rolls need to be manufactured somewhere, on some machinery which needs maintenance.
So just how long can we go on without restarting most industry ?
Every single part of the 21st century infrastructure and society will incrementally degrade and fragment while it is on hold and different parts will degrade at different speeds. But, there is no “tipping point” where suddenly everything collapses, it’s just a long slow process of slight increases in all of the issues you listed on a day by day process.
The question you should really be asking is “at what point does the cure become worse than the disease?” and as time marches inexorable onwards, I suspect you will have the chance to observe governments and panels of experts across the world wrestling with this very question. By the law of averages the UK will not be the first to relax restrictions, so we should all get to see what happens in other countries when restrictions are relaxed (in fact, I think it’s already happening in China, isn’t it? – will be interesting to see if there is a re-emergence of corona there)
By the law of averages the UK will not be the first to relax restrictions
Conversely, if you subscribe to the view that the UK government is converting/building out 20,000 extra beds capacity for this virus, and then wants to keep those beds close to full capacity to push the less vulnerable part of the population through the infection as fast as possible, restrictions are going to have to be relaxed within 10 days or so to keep the infection rate high enough. I’m not convinced they ever abandoned this strategy…
so we should all get to see what happens in other countries when restrictions are relaxed
What happens next depends very much on how responsive, deep and thorough the local “test and trace” capabilities are. It will also depend dramatically on how well we understand who is recovered and immune.
This is a tipping point but not of the type I was describing. Blackouts don’t represent a collapse of the grid, just a temporary overload. Anything like this would be addressed by emergency work within a few hours to days.
In electricity terms, breakages that would get left unfixed would be quite far down the line I think and would certainly start with individual houses and small groups of houses.
The new tests that are coming out should help a lot with that. Also, the Chinese app that tracks where everyone is and who they get close to will make the tracing about 100x easier than in western democracies.