Saturday, April 18, 2020

How do we get a swift recovery from the pandemic?

It looks as if the Coronavirus is peaking in the UK, with a bit of luck.
Neil Ferguson, the epidemiological computer modeller at Imperial College predicted a couple of weeks ago that we would peak between the 9-16th April, and he was just about right.

What happens next? Hopefully, we will be on a downward slope. The question is, will our path be like China, or like Iran? If we are to follow China to victory, without using Chinese methods (everyone quotes the welding up of doors, but we need to check that actually happened) we will have to up our game.

If we do not up our game, we will be more like Iran, staggering along on a painfully shallow downward slope, still in lock-down while more progressive nations are opening up their economies.

So what do we need to do, over and above staying home, maintaining social distance, and washing our hands for 20 seconds as often as we can?

Here's what we need to do:

  1. Mask Up. It is very clear: Masks greatly reduce the range of the droplets leaving our mouth as we sneeze, cough, speak or breathe. It stops us infecting others. We must not wait for Government to give the go-ahead on masks, we the people must just do it.
  2. Check history and temperature of all incoming airline (and ship) travellers. All incomers should be asked to self-isolate for 2 weeks. Compliance must be ensured with random checks.
  3. Remote temperature checks can be applied to all queues and entrances to large buildings
  4. Widespread testing for presence of virus in nose, throat and faeces.
  5. Widespread testing for immunity. Immune people might be given a certificate that will help them to get work in situations that would otherwise need PPE. We do not yet know how antibodies in the blood correlate with resistance to infection. This is one way to find out.
  6. Contact tracing, especially for  cases in regions (for example Cornwall) where the incidence of Covid-19 is at very low levels.
  7. Digital Contact tracing using software that has a barrier between the essential requirements of contact tracing and data relating to the person who is being followed. Yes, the civil liberties aspect of this technology needs careful consideration and debate, but it must not be dismissed out of hand.
  8. Shops and supermarkets are now major places where transmission can happen. There are a number of measures that can be brought in to prevent transmission, starting with masks and frequently-sterilised gloves for shop workers.
  9. Large organisations in necessary businesses that still put people in close contact with each other must be given detailed advice about lowering the risk of transmission, and organised into small cells, where there is more restricted numbers that can be infected by a carrier.
  10. Unnecessary large building work must be closed down.
There are more, but this is a good list to begin with. This gives us a chance of getting a strong downward slope on the graph.  The sooner we can get that downward slope, the sooner we can get out of our houses and down to the (still socially distant) pub.

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