After Boris Johnson’s close call in the Intensive Care Unit, the British Prime Minister seems to be more cautious about re-opening the United Kingdom.
ALTHOUGH Spain, Italy, France and Germany have all presented some sort of plan regarding their de-escalation process, little is known about what will happen in Britain.
After his battle with the coronavirus and his brief stint in the Intensive Care Unit, it seems like Johnson has taken a step back to reconsider the pressure of the virus on reopening the United Kingdom. For now, he has resisted the pressure of large business groups who have been asking for a general return to work as soon as possible.
Quarantine measures in the UK remain in place at least until March 23 but meanwhile the Isle of Wight, a small 380 square kilometre isle in the English Channel, has already launched a ‘pilot project’ of what de-escalation in Britain could look like. The project involves three magic T’s: Test, track and trace.
After overcoming the peak of the disease and accumulating around 192,000 positive cases and 28,734 deaths, Downing Street has promised to meet the goal of 100,000 daily tests and will multiply its ability to track the chain of infections (using the ‘track and trace’ technique) by hiring of at least 18,000 contact detectives by the middle of this month and by launching the British version of the controversial ‘monitoring apps’ which aim to stop the expansion of the coronavirus.
The Isle of Wight, which has 140,500 inhabitants (slightly less than the population of Marbella) and is separated by 3-8 kilometres from the south coast of the main island of the United Kingdom, may be the perfect setting for this initial test before applying the strategy to the whole country.
Isolated from the rest of the country without a bridge or direct tunnel, the only available access is by ferry or boat, will mean that the infections will not come from external sources. This is especially good news for the quarter of its residents who all share the same demographic as pensioners as they are more liable to be part of the vulnerable risk group.
The project begins this Tuesday, May 5, when mobile applications will be available to download for residents of the island. They will receive a letter at their homes with an invitation to download it for free on their phones.
“If you are watching this and you live on the Isle of Wight, I have a simple message for you: download the application to protect the NHS and save lives. By downloading the application, you protect your own health, the health of your loved ones and the health of your community,” announced Health Minister Matt Hancock this Monday, after publicly communicating the public about the project.
According to the Executive, the application will support and automate the efforts of the group of ‘contact tracers’ in tracking contacts: when a person is diagnosed with Covid-19 and convinced that they have remained in isolation, the ‘detectives’ interview them in depth to detail all their movements in the previous days, as this is a period in which people may not show symptoms but still be infectious and therefore they may find out who else has been in contact and alert them. Once this chain of possible infected persons has been established, the health authorities contact them, confirm whether or not they have symptoms, and convince them to remain isolated.
This is an especially laborious, detailed and difficult process of tracking that could be automated through this type of ‘app’. The ‘app’, like many other versions that are being developed in countries around the world for the same reasons, works via Bluetooth signals which are emitted by the mobile.
The British version, the NHSX app, developed by researchers at the University of Oxford , aims to be “a way to ensure that we can really control this [pandemic] in the future and that we don’t have a second wave” of coronavirus infections , stated the Minister of Transport, Grant Shapps.
According to epidemiological experts cited by the British Executive, it must be downloaded by at least 56 per cent (80 per cent of ‘smartphone’ users) of the general population to be truly effective in controlling a regrowth after the lack of confidence.