Elimination, properly this time

I was really pleased when the Scottish Government started advocating for eliminating/ heavily suppressing Covid. However, there seem to have been few practical results of this commitment so far. We should learn from countries like New Zealand, South Korea and Finland that have either eliminated the virus altogether or are continuing to suppress it to very low levels. As a result, they have managed to keep normal life going to a much greater extent than countries that are trying to live with some level of Covid and relying on intermittent restrictions to stop things spiralling out of control.
I think we should use the circuit breaker idea in combination with vastly increased testing to try to eliminate Covid from Scotland altogether. First we would need to ensure that cases stayed fairly stable or decreased for a few weeks. This would mean temporarily closing hospitality and banning meetings between households indoors, reiterating that everyone who can work from home should do so +/- putting other people in nonessential jobs on paid leave, making university teaching online only and possibly some sort of travel restrictions, all for a short period of time, clearly communicated in advance (say a few weeks). During that time we would test everyone in the country at least once, using one of the new rapid diagnostic tests being rolled out in many countries (such as saliva tests or the new CRISPR paper-based test) and contact-trace accordingly. If necessary, we could draw on healthcare students (as has been done in other countries) and on the massive pool of people who signed up to volunteer in April to increase the testing & contact tracing workforce. We could also make much more use of NHS and academic labs in order to set up a community testing programme separate from the disastrous UK-wide Serco-run one. Hopefully these measures should allow detection of the vast majority of cases, who would then be supported to self-isolate for 2 weeks, potentially with random checks to enforce this. You could also look into voluntary self-isolation away from home for people who test positive (on the model used in many Asian countries) to try to reduce household transmission. This would help people who live with vulnerable people or in shared/ crowded accommodation and would also allow hotels to receive financial support in return for a useful contribution to fighting Covid. After this, we could return to the current restrictions for a few weeks while we assessed the results of the circuit breaker and intensively looked for any remaining cases, following which much more normal life should hopefully be possible. We would then continue surveillance testing, with a clear roadmap agreed in advance of what measures would be implemented at given levels of cases.

Why the contribution is important

We've seen that reimposing restrictions gets harder every time and isn't sustainable long term, but letting Covid get out of control would be a disaster (whatever people say about Sweden or the US, that approach leads to a lot of dead people, including relatively young and healthy people, long-term disability and almost the same economic damage). I think people would be much happier to comply with stricter restrictions if they were part of a clear plan working towards a return to more normal life (as opposed to the status quo with all its restrictions as the best we can hope for). The problem comes when we seem to be in an indefinite cycle of lockdown and release with no clear end in sight. Scotland nearly eliminated coronavirus over the summer. It feels like a massive missed opportunity not to have taken it all the way. We should finish the job now.

by AuroraB on October 06, 2020 at 05:05PM

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Based on: 13 votes


  • Posted by scottishcitizen October 06, 2020 at 17:25

    Agree! We need actions rather than lip service about zero COVID. New Zealand have almost returned to normal because they put in the effort. If we had properly used our lockdown and the summer we could be in that situation too.
  • Posted by angel October 07, 2020 at 01:11

    Yes, we were doing so well until the schools were opened with no F.A.C.T.S.
  • Posted by TJT October 07, 2020 at 08:18

    this would only work if it had been done at the beginning. The virus is already everywhere, now we need to build up our natural immunity. No matter when restrictions are lifted there will be a surge in numbers. Lockdown was never about having no cases, it was only about slowing the spread to ensure the NHS was not overwhelmed.
  • Posted by slimbofat October 07, 2020 at 12:06

    Elimination isn't possible - if it was Humans would have very few illnesses to deal with. We have to accept that this is going to be a long-term issue and isn't going away. We need a strategy which works in the longer term.
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