IT’S TIME FOR A MORE INTELLIGENT APPROACH TO TACKLING COVID-19
Not only can we solve the challenges of Covid-19 – keeping the vulnerable safe and our economy alive – while also addressing many deep-seated inequalities and out-of-date systems, and establishing the capabilities to solve the bigger, longer-term challenges of climate change and sustainability. But in order to do so, we need a shift in mindset; a smarter approach, using all the information, expertise and resources available to us.
We have many more tools in the box than just lockdowns, quarantines and tiered restrictions. National lockdowns during the first wave were perfectly understandable. We didn’t know what was coming, nor what we were dealing with. But that is not the case now. We know exactly who is most at risk, we know more about how to treat those with the virus, we know more about the systems we need to have in place, where the vulnerable are, and we have the wherewithal to target support more effectively. And, we can do this at the same time as keeping businesses and borders open, and people employed.
We also know that lockdowns and tiered systems come with catastrophic impacts to industry, jobs, and the economy, as well as creating a host of serious social and mental health issues. They lead to unsustainable levels of public debt that will hamper the choices of future generations and ultimately limit our capacity to solve other long-term challenges of climate change. It is simply not sustainable to keep opening and closing businesses and shutting down large swathes of the economy. Every time it is done, we lose good businesses, jobs, and mistrust and frustration grow – all of which create divisions, at a time when we need unity and cooperation.
The development of a vaccine within nine months is a perfect demonstration of what is possible when the best minds in the industry are mobilised with the right resources. This is an incredible achievement and opens up the possibility of dramatically improving the speed at which we can solve other global illnesses and transform global health. The point here is that it proves that we can solve problems if we put our minds to it and work together. This same approach needs to be deployed in other areas where solutions are required.
Working with Heathrow and other major international travel hubs, we could solve the problem of safe travel almost overnight, without any further need for quarantine measures. The technology and solutions are readily available – standardised, certified tests linked to digital identities [passports or equivalent]. We can do this using sovereign data, without the risk of personalised data being shared, and, at the same time, remove unnecessary travel bureaucracy and keep the airline industry alive. The solution addresses the immediate problem, but also addresses others that have long needed solving.
The hospitality and food industry have proved that it is possible to create safe spaces with the application of simple systems and rules; ventilation systems, distancing, wearing of masks and use of hand sanitiser. Employers have also demonstrated that is possible to create safe workplaces whilst keeping businesses operating. Working with local leaders, employers and wider society, we will be far better positioned to target solutions to where they are needed most, while keeping the economy open and people employed.
The solutions are right in front of us, but we can’t do any of this until we have better quality and more transparent information – all of which is available but is not being shared. We are being given health data, but this is only one part of a larger picture. We need to see this data in the context of economic and social data, in order to properly assess the impacts of the available options so we can collectively make better informed, and evidence-based decisions.
The UK and Italy are in the hot seat next year, hosting G7 and G20. Working together, both governments have an incredible opportunity to lead the world, help mobilise the global community and promote more international cooperation. No country can solve this problem alone but if we work together, we absolutely can. The Commonwealth also has a role to play, as a network of countries, large and small, that are already aligned and equipped with a framework to cooperate, share knowledge and promote best practice. If we look beyond our national borders, and pool our collective knowledge and expertise to help each other, we will solve the problems faster and more effectively than we ever would working in isolation.
Not only can we solve the problem of Covid-19, we can leave behind a positive legacy on the world by solving, once and for all, the appalling health, social and economic inequalities that still exist, and reform many of the archaic systems that hold back global trade. By doing so, we will solve the immediate problem in front of us and lay the foundations to use the same capabilities to solve the bigger, longer term challenge of climate change.
So, let’s work together and use all the information and resources available to us. Shift away from fire-fighting and heavy-handed approaches, to looking at the opportunity in a more intelligent way. This would broaden the range of tools available to solve the problems we are dealing with, and be a far smarter way of tackling the challenges.
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