Currently, governments are taking drastic measures to prevent a large amount of people dying, which is a good thing.
When the lockdown and isolation time extends, the economy will start doing increasingly worse. People are laid off, businesses go bankrupt. While there are certainly some business sectors like cruise ships that are not so essential to society, the effect is large and touches many. Just changing a society a lot at once is very problematic.
Imperial College’s report titled Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand from March 16, 2020:
The report contains interesting simulations, how the initial surge of infections can be deflected with drastic isolation methods.
It also contains simulations on what happens after the initial part. Even if the initial peak is flattened in the spring, if the measures are lifted in September, there is a peak later, in December:
This means there needs to be a long term strategy for the after-peak time. The paper presents that as well: having isolation measures on for a while and then off:
The long term strategy is to have isolation measures on 2/3 of the time and off 1/3 of the time. This is better than having them on all the time, but it still have very drastic business effects. We could probably do even better.
Other non-pharmaceutical long term strategies
It’s relatively easy to come up with a lot of improvements. If this slow down the spread, then the proportion of time when strong isolation measures have to be in effect can be smaller. The economy will work a lot better, and people will be healthier.
Here’s a few examples. One could found businesses to do just these.
- Work shifts, example
- Divide a company’s workforce into ten groups.
- Only have one group physically at work at a time
- Each group has 4 hour time at work
- It’s much easier to maintain distance this way
- Risk of infection is a lot lower
- Improved isolation
- Move as much as possible interactions to electronic and phone calls
- Hire much more people to do grocery collection in shops. Have people enter a list electronically and only pick up from a place where distancing is possible (you don’t necessarily need cars for this). With a car, a collector can put the groceries in the trunk.
- Physical devices
- Install walls or plexiglass between customers and employees. Also between employees. Even a curtain or space divider is better than nothing. The simplest one is probably a few boards with a fabric stapled on.
- In a hospital, no door should require hand touching. Install all automatic or button openable doors. The button should be pushed with an elbow or knee. This holds for all businesses with a lot of visitors.
- Install kits for doors so they can be opened with the arm. Install at businesses where people need to physically visit, and at companies with required physical presence.
- Contactless payment should be made easier so you need to enter the PIN more rarely.
There is a whole other category of new business regarding “intelligence” businesses around the pandemic: contact tracing, measurement, simulation, isolation observation. This is mostly software.