Contact tracing and the building of a network of local community protection schemes must be put in place before lifting the coronavirus lockdown, according to a new Green Party Report.
Released yesterday (20 April), the report titled ‘Building a Community Shield to suppress the coronavirus’ stressed that only by implementing such measures could the Covid-19 virus be contained, saving lives and preventing a cycle of further lockdowns in the future
The report was coordinated by former Green MEP Molly Scott Cato and is a collaborative work with other figures from the Green Party.
The document rejects the ‘fatalism’ embedded within the government’s response towards controlling the virus and puts forward the ‘community shield’ approach – locally-based community protection schemes – as a ‘vision of hope, based in the community solidarity that we have all experienced so strongly in recent weeks.’
Referring to the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice, the paper draws attention to one of the six WHO preconditions for lifting coronavirus lockdowns, which states that health systems must have the capacity to ‘detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact’. The report expresses concern that this condition is not alluded to within the five prerequisites for the end of lockdown set out by the First Secretary of State Dominic Raab and strongly criticises the government’s flirtation with the discredited ‘herd immunity’ approach.
To enable a lifting of lockdown measures, the report calls for widespread testing and location of those who have had contact with positive cases through a ‘community shield’ programme. It describes the community shield as ‘a network of locally-based community protection schemes, co-ordinated by Public Health England’s regional Outbreak Management Teams, working together with local authorities and GPs, to do the vital work of finding people with the coronavirus, isolating them quickly, and tracing those they contacted. Strict isolation of cases and contacts can be monitored by appropriate phone apps and home visits’.
The report argues these community shields will work towards suppressing Covid-19 by monitoring its spread, but also be a mechanism in place to support not only those suffering with the virus but also a way in which to reassure people at the time when lockdown is lifted.
The paper argues that community shields should be included within the government exit strategy with Green MP Caroline Lucas arguing it would be ‘criminally negligent’ if this advice from the WHO on exiting lockdown was not listened to by the government.
Considering the privacy aspect of track and trace technology, which could be rolled out to monitor the spread of the outbreak, the paper presses for four essential principles to be upheld when consulting public data: transparency, anonymity, voluntary opt-in and choice of responsible partners.
These principles have been drawn together reflecting upon systems operating in other countries such as South Korea, China and Israel and outlined due to the concern over maintaining civil liberties within the UK if these technologies are implemented during the outbreak.
In particular, the paper focuses on the Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-PPT) system which does not create centralised pools of data and is designed specifically to avoid the risk of ‘surveillance creep’ while also effectively tracking and tracing infected cases of the virus.
Commenting on the contact tracing Green MP Caroline Lucas told Sky News today that the government should make more effective use of the help offered by the 750,000 volunteers who have signed up to the NHS Volunteer Responder initiative and the valuable community resource of 5,000 Environmental Health Officers who are accustomed to outbreaks of disease within communities to build this community shield.
Lucas said: “What we want to do is for the government to expand this criteria to include this vital element of contact tracing at community level and start working now with local authorities, with PHE, regional networks of Outbreak Management Teams. We’ve got a potential network at local level to put in place the infrastructure to mean that if, once the lockdown is lifted, we see a resurgence of the infection, which is highly likely, we would have a mechanism at local level to suppress that virus, to get that contact tracing in place and try to stop the spread of the virus further.”
Other contributors to the report include Green Party health spokesperson Larry Sanders, Green councillor and public health expert Gina Dowding, GP and former Green Party national speaker Richard Lawson and media and data expert Tom Scott.
You can view the ‘Building a Community Shield to suppress the coronavirus’ on Caroline Lucas’ website.