Establish local areas and traffic light system for virus management

How can the pandemic be managed during the exit strategy taking into account the diversity across Scotland, the need to establish economic recovery given the importance of the hospitality industry while also meeting the need for consistent messaging? I would argue that the whole of Scotland is too large a unit to be managed efficiently (given the difference in cases between the central belt and the highlands and islands) but at the other end of the spectrum post code areas are too small to be practical although they have the benefit of people being able to identify which area they live in in. Somewhere in between, there is a size of local area that should be good enough. (VMLA - Virus management local area? Catchy title required.)

An example would be to take a small town surrounded by green belt or an island surrounded by water. For virus management this would be treated as a single unit, be given a traffic light status and be the 'home range' of all residents within it. Red status would be lockdown for all residents; amber would be free movement within the area but with social distancing restrictions; and green would be as amber but with no need for social distancing restrictions i.e. back to the old normal (almost). Red status would be triggered by a positive case within the last 14 days, amber by only suspected cases in the last 14 days and green by neither of the above in 14 days (or period as determined by the science). The detection of cases assumes a good testing regime is in place. Crucially, green status would mean that pubs, restaurants and schools could open as normal (save for increased hand washing and using a tissue to catch sneezes and coughs). If two (or more) neighbouring local areas are green, then travel between them for residents of either would be unrestricted. Travel in to and out of an amber area would only be allowed for key workers and for red areas only essential key workers.

I would anticipate that the highlands and islands and other rural areas of Scotland would be the first to go green and also where the hospitality industry is most crucial. As green areas merge then longer distance travel becomes possible allowing 'local tourism' to take place - customers for pubs, restaurants and hotels. No one is going to be taking foreign holidays anytime soon so there will be a need for this. Testing can be concentrated at the boundaries of aggregate green areas on the people moving in as well as the decreasing number of red and amber areas. Special "local areas", e.g. care homes with particularly high test requirements could be accommodated in the same scheme; Red and Amber: no visitors, staff in full PPE, comprehensive testing; Green: visitors allowed and sample testing.

I propose that such local areas for virus management would be one or more primary school catchment areas but would also assume that these are based on a number of post code areas so that it is easy to identify them, the people who live within them and communicate the current status to them. Other considerations would be how self contained a proposed area would be e.g. does it have a GP practice, pharmacy and grocery store. (The general case would be the minimum set of post codes with a well defined border that is self contained and residents could readily understand as their home range).

If a suspected case is found in a green area, it goes back to amber and a confirmed case would mean it goes back to red.

Why the contribution is important

It allows the diversity of situations across Scotland to be managed in a consistent way and the evolution of aggregate safe areas to expand as the virus is defeated, area by area. Any local resurgence automatically resets the status with appropriate restrictions but only in the areas affected.
The traffic light system is easy for everyone to understand.
Post code areas can be the basis of communicating the current status of residents local area (home range).
Using primary school catchment areas as the basis should allow the management of children back to school in a straightforward manner. Also secondary schools if these are a number of primary school areas.
Pubs, restaurants and hotels can open in aggregate green areas and local tourism can take place across these. This assumes that hand washing, sneeze and cough hygiene remain in place and people respect voluntary social distancing.

by ABinC on May 10, 2020 at 10:42PM

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Average rating: 4.1
Based on: 6 votes


  • Posted by nethymc1 May 11, 2020 at 09:53

    Interesting idea and maybe a way that we can support our local economies. There are doubtless huge differences in infection and transmission rates across the country. Using the increasing amounts of data could save many livelihoods.
  • Posted by JoeReade May 11, 2020 at 20:27

    Confusing for the public, and very difficult to administer. Sure, if a localised outbreak occurs then a decision could be taken to tighten controls in a small geographic area, but this should be at the discretion of health authorities / government.
    If there was a mechanism as you suggest where controls in a town / island / region are directly related to the number of positive test results, this would encourage people to hide their symptoms or not get tested.
    We're all in this together. We can't create 'safe bubbles' - they pop too easily.
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