02 June 2020

Ending the Lockdown - Mass events

Some more thoughts written on 2nd June, after I posted the following on Twitter on 11th May
To resume social activities: family and mass gatherings, sports, the arts, public transport, foreign travel, etc., the UK daily new infections must be in the 10s or 100s, not the 1000s. This requires mass testing, good tracking and compulsory quarantine. When, Boris?

We're still seeing a UK-wide rolling 7-day total of over 15000 lab-confirmed cases.  Though the figure for England is now consistently under 5000, this is around the number in late March, and we went from that to 35000 - 40000 per seven days in about three weeks.  That's the lab-confirmed cases.  Nobody has any real idea of the number people in the community who currently have the virus but haven't taken a test.  Some pundits put the multiplier at four to five times, although social distancing means that it may be smaller.  That's still 20000 new cases in England each week. 

There's no way that community team sports, concerts, large family gatherings, religious activities, Friday night at the pub, and 1001 other things that delight us will be allowed to resume until the chances of catching this deadly infection have been reduced to near zero.  Social distancing is a killer for most of these activities.

We can't go on with social distancing forever.  We need to eradicate the virus - who knows if an effective vaccine will ever be found?

We need to develop a process that
  1. puts a strong obligation on anyone who suspects that they have the virus, or is showing symptoms, or has been in contact with an infected person, to test
  2. gives test results within 24 hours or ideally same day
  3. gives support to anyone who tests positive, in line with their needs, to isolate safely - counselling, financial, communications, medical, psychological, nursing, child support
  4. supplies accommodation for anyone who cannot isolate without risk to others - if one in a family has the virus, there's no need for everyone else to catch it too
  5. supplies compulsory accommodation for anyone testing positive who won't isolate voluntarily
At present, testing is concentrated in single-function testing centres.  That involves travel for potentially sick people, which may be a real problem for some.  We need a more responsive and accessible way for anyone in need of a test to obtain it.  Testers on motorbikes?  District nurses?

The Government seems scared to bite the bullet of compulsory quarantine, and it's obviously a political hot potato.  Sadly, it may be necessary for the few, to give freedom to the majority from the restrictions of social distancing.  Maybe voluntary accommodation could be given with such good arrangements that no-one needs to be compelled.

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