New COVID strategy needed
I do not understand why our authorities continue to take the same approach to the COVID problem. It would not be reasonable for even the most optimistic proponent of the current solution to claim that this method is an unqualified success. So maybe it is time for the “lockdown experiment” to end. It is an experiment because conventional wisdom indicated that it would not work and it had never been tried before but our public health officials had never faced this big a problem so dramatic solutions probably were in order. What concerns me is that this seems to be the only solution available and to a greater or lesser extent every place (Sweden excepted) has implemented widespread isolation.
When we face a huge problem it is always necessary to formulate a long term plan and then develop metrics to determine if the plan is working. In this case the plan was to undertake widespread isolation to control the number of cases to a manageable level until a vaccine could be developed and administered. The widespread isolation seems to have worked in spring of 2020, but as wave after wave has hit and different jurisdictions respond with varying levels of isolation all of the case curves begin to resemble each other. This certainly puts into question the successfulness of this solution. Also it is hard to believe that the plan was so one dimensional. Based on the normal course of vaccine development this indicates that political leaders thought that they would be able to force us to isolate for years and there certainly does not appear to be another plan.
There is a small group who are calling for a different approach and it would seem to have merit. There are currently five different self-administered home quick results tests for COVID. These tests give results in 15 to 30 minutes. In the summer of 2020 the U.S. government was able to purchase large quantities of these tests for about $5 each. A small country like Canada could have purchased tests for our entire population at what would be a minor cost in terms of the money that has been spent. If the Canadian government had mailed 10 tests a month to every citizen it would have cost around $1.85 billion each month. If every Canadian tested themselves every three days and self-isolated if they tested positive, why would we need to have widespread lockdowns because we could take comfort in the knowledge that even asymptomatic carriers had been tested in the last three days and were not likely to cross paths with a contagious person. Even high risk people would have been given far greater confidence that the rest of the population was not a threat. I believe that this would have been a preferable control method than lockdowns that damaged people emotionally and caused uncalculable harm.
The next step could have been to set up regional hotlines that any positive person could call to report that they had tested positive. That hotline could have been a one stop shop to ensure that the person did not need enhanced medical attention, was provided with necessities for their self-quarantine period, was registered to receive government income replacement payments and received follow-up calls to ensure that they did not require further assistance. Considering that in the past year we have had about one million cases, so less than 3,000 new cases per day, with an average call length of 15 minutes the staffing requirement would be under 250 operators based on a 12-hour day.
This solution would have cost less, reduced personal stress and given our country a greater sense of protection from COVID. It also would have provided a far better understanding of spread and effectiveness of the program without having to threaten and bully the general populous.