Shifting out of lockdown


This latest report from UK think tank the Adam Smith Institute discusses a creative way to phase out of lockdown.

The ASI’s latest paper, authored by Imperial College Professor Keith Willison and ASI Head of Research Matthew Lesh, outlines a creative way to phase out the lockdown using a ‘four days on, ten days off’ cyclical strategy: The COVID-19 lockdown was justified for clinical reasons, however it is broadly acknowledged that it is causing substantial economic, educational and social disruption and should be phased out as quickly as is safely possible. The UK has now passed peak infections, but it remains in the danger zone. There is concern that reducing the draconian lockdown measures could cause a second peak that overwhelms the healthcare system and necessitates a more damaging second lockdown. The public is also worried about loosening the lockdown, with many expressing that they would prefer to not return to work or send their children to school. It is now necessary to develop creative solutions that enable people to get back to work while avoiding a second peak of infections. In order to be effective, these solutions should allow for variation in local circumstances while ensuring broad safety of the public. One such solution that should be considered, along with other measures such as social distancing, ‘track, trace and quarantine,’ and hygiene, is the Weizmann Institute of Science’s ‘Four Days On, Ten Days Off’ cyclic strategy: Populations would be divided into two groups of households. Each group would work or attend school for four days, Monday through Thursday, and then enter a 10 day period off. Each group works or attends school while the other group is off. Individuals in the two groups do not interact with each other. The advantage of this approach is that it would limit social interactions, reduce pressure of public transport and enable greater social distancing in schools and workplaces by halving numbers. Individuals who become symptomatic would be likely to do so during their ‘off’ period, limiting their ability to unintentionally spread the virus. It would immediately allow a large number of people who are not able to work or study to return to 40% employment or education, reducing the impact of the lockdown while keeping people safe. Extensive modelling has found it would maintain R0 below 1, therefore reducing the probability of a second peak. The specific work/off work ratio can be varied in response to observations. If the Government wants to safely reopen the economy while avoiding a surge in infections that overwhelms the healthcare system, they should: avoid excessively prescriptive guidance to business about how to safely operate; allow businesses to develop innovative, sector and company-specific protocols; encourage creative and innovative methods in how to operate such as the ‘Four Days On, Ten Days Off’ ; and trial new approaches, such as the ‘Four Days On, Ten Days Off’ spearheaded by the Weizmann Institute, in the civil service and education sector.

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