Instead of pursuing the pointless cycle of lockdowns followed by large scale outbreaks, we must do as the more successful countries have done and pursue a ZeroCovid strategy instead of the seriously flawed suppression approach. Unless we adopt a Covid elimination strategy, many thousands of further deaths are a certainty. Click on the image above to go to Zero Covid campaign website.
ZeroCovid involves a maximum suppression strategy that seeks to effectively eliminate the virus rather than trying to keep infections and deaths at a so-called ‘acceptable level’. The Government has frequently explained that their strategy is to keep the infection rates and hospitalisations at a level that doesn’t overwhelm the NHS. This is a strategy that prioritises the economy over people but, in real terms, causes immense damage to both. This is simply not good enough. Click on the image below to go to Zero Covid campaign website.
Though the vaccine is a hugely important development, we must avoid complacency as there is so much that we don’t know such as its period of efficacy, whether immunised people can continue to spread and whether it will be effective against new mutations. We can’t rely solely on the vaccine to make us safe again. A ZeroCovid strategy must do the following:
- The government must set out a comprehensive, scientifically based plan on how the pandemic is to be contained, suppressed and eliminated along with a transparent decision-making process, a communication strategy and engagement with affected communities. The plan must involve devolving more decision-making responsibility and resources to the regions.
- Maintain a complete and thorough lockdown including no travel, closure of schools and nurseries and everyone staying at home apart Government-defined key workers. The lockdown can be lifted only when the virus is reduced to a truly manageable level and where mini outbreaks can be quickly isolated and controlled.
- Establish an effective community-based, locally controlled system of Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support before easing lockdown.
- Support must be provided to enable people who test positive, and all of their contacts, to isolate by being furloughed on full pay. The self-employed must also be adequately compensated. People in isolation must also be given help with accessing food, medicines etc to minimise the chances of passing on the infection.
- Provide vacant hotel rooms to people who live in crowded living conditions and who are required to self isolate.
- Introduce tight controls and testing on incoming international travellers to ensure effective isolation of incoming passengers who test positive. Passengers will have to provide proof that their journey is an absolutely essential work-related trip.
- Provide school pupils with free broadband and laptops to ensure effective on-line learning coupled with face to face sessions in Covid-secure environments. We must support the measures outlined in the NEU’s ‘Education Recovery Plan’.
- Use dormant community spaces (community centres, gyms, church halls, hotels, night clubs, leisure centres etc.) to reduce class sizes to enable safer social distancing for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. This could be supported by employing more classroom teachers and recruiting ex-teachers and implementing a rota system for on-line and face to face learning sessions.
- Keep University campuses closed and commit to implementing a full programme of on-line learning with tuition fees and accommodation costs immediately refunded by the Government. Campuses must only open when it is completely safe to do so and the infections are near elimination levels.
- Initiate a publicity campaign to ensure that everyone understands and complies with simple, clear instructions.
- Consult and involve trade unions in processes to ensure that workplaces are safe for workers to return to work once the virus is under control.
- Initiate a statutory public inquiry in to the UK’s handling of the pandemic
Only when infections are reduced to very small numbers should we reopen the economy and attempt to return to some kind of ‘normal’. However, it is likely that there will be, at the very least, smaller outbreaks that must be effectively managed through local interventions involving a super-efficient Identify, Test Track and Trace and Support system.
Without this strategy working in tandem with the vaccine, there will be many more deaths and increased economic damage.