Covid-19: Recovery or Adaptation?

At a recent meeting of project Mercury, an international network of scientists and medics, it was clear that we need to adapt to COVID-19 and its successors not recover.

Even the COVID-free are considering how to adapt for the inevitable incursion of new cases and new pandemics. From border control to building design, everything is being reviewed.

The best approaches to this phase of COVID response are just being established. The top-down approach to tracking and tracing in England is at odds with the sector’s experience of what the service and the community need.

With the return to schools now delayed until September, perhaps the early warnings of teaching professionals will bring a new respect for local knowledge. Or perhaps, as my daughter said, we will just get a press statement saying it was always the intention to send children back in ‘Junetember’.

Creating national infrastructure stops us reinventing solutions multiple times. However, this infrastructure needs to enable national services to be delivered locally as well as local services to be networked nationally.

And with any technology development you need to make sure you look for best practice elsewhere first, adopt and adapt. From the South Korean mobile testing to the release jointly by Apple and Google of their tracking and tracing app in 22 countries.

Or perhaps, as my daughter said, we will just get a press statement saying it was always the intention to send children back in ‘Junetember’.

This approach is already being implemented. The PGA Golf Tour is able to create and maintain COVID free zones wherever it goes.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government legislated for testing at Premier League matches. In motorsport, a Formula 1 team has adopted a solid testing approach and in travel, Heathrow airport will do the same.

How would it be if we put the same technology and protocols together to create protective bubbles around our care homes and our schools, allowing them to adapt to the ‘new normal’.

The Apple and Google app is a lesson in itself. The fact that Apple and Google are collaborating is significant. Built on personal privacy, with no exposure of personal data but allowing the phone owner, when they have tested positive, to alert those that they have been in contact with over the last two weeks.

Adapting this to allow the phone owner to alert the council of the places that the person has been and to gather statistics without access to personal records will give a tailored local response and maintain that privacy.

The fact that the next release will be built into the operating systems shows that adaptation rather than returning to the ‘old normal’ is the way ahead.

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