Govt must get timing right on lifting restrictions

Dear Editor,

When ought the government lift restrictions?

For the government to do so responsibly, we have to consider if the government is capable of satisfying itself and the country of the following:

One, that the virus from one infected individual isn’t infecting another person.

This will be partly a function of how many others a sick person comes into contact with. This will require testing and contact tracing on a large scale. Are we doing that, yet? I do not think so.

If not, why not? If we do not and we open up the country too soon, things would get worse, much worse.

So we must be cautious on the side of being a little late rather than too early, as the result of being too early would result in a nasty recession combined with lots of fatalities.

Getting the timing right also means having the public health infrastructure ready to keep new infections low by identifying new cases, tracing everyone they’ve been in contact with and isolating those people.

Two, that the government commits itself to widespread surveillance by making COVID-19 testing for both active infections and antibodies a mandatory part of medical care.

The government has to carry out random testing programs. Government ought to make voluntary testing easy and free. But, do we have the financial wherewithal to obtain lots of swabs and reagents and lab equipment, and people to do the testing and explain the results? I am not sure.

Three, we must act quickly without further delay to quarantine not just the sick person but also everyone they’ve come in contact with so that the virus doesn’t have the opportunity to spread.

To do this there are technological solutions, such as apps that detect when another person’s phone is near yours that can help.

Again, this will require government to ramp up staff and infrastructure to track people down and notify them about exposure. We should see about providing voluntary quarantine centers and, fortunately, we have a lot of surplus hotel rooms at this time.

When the number of new cases has fallen, and we have the tools to keep it low, we can start to gradually lift restrictions.

So, the answer seems to be: only when the government has the testing and tracing infrastructure in place can they let us go about our lives without being afraid.

Concerned citizen

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