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Overview —

This paper models the cost of a comprehensive testing-based strategy to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Scotland and to allow the country to emerge safely from its blanket lockdown.

Credits —

Craig Dalzell

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While the ongoing pandemic can be partially controlled through lockdown measures such as those implemented by the UK and other countries, it is clear that this lockdown cannot be maintained indefinitely. Until a vaccine is developed and deployed the only other way out of permanent lockdown is a strategy being employed by only a handful of countries and Scotland and the UK is not among them. Guidelines from the World Health Organisation are unambiguous. In order to properly combat the Covid-19 pandemic, countries must “Test, test, test”. We must know where the virus is, who has it and who is at risk of catching it from them. We must understand where the infection hotspots are and possibly even where folk are becoming infected so that changes can be made. Where we identify communities which have a rapid spread we can target restrictions on social spaces or spaces where people come into contact in that area.

Countries that are not testing enough of their citizens cannot effectively protect them. Currently, Scotland ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of tests performed per positive result found.

This paper describes a model to roll out mass testing across Scotland which would allow the Scottish Government not only to determine the overall extent of the spread of coronavirus through the country but be able to then form a strategy for easing and lifting the lockdown while still remaining vigilant and able to suppress secondary outbreaks as and when they occur.

KEY POINTS

― Scotland is not proactively testing or contact tracing enough people to determine where potential Covid outbreaks are likely to take place. At the time of writing, Germany was testing four people for every one person tested in Scotland. Hong Kong was testing more than 20 people for every one in Scotland.

― The result has been that the virus has spread out of control throughout the country leading to a blanket, national lockdown.

― Extended lockdowns are economically damaging. A three month Lockdown is estimated to cost Scotland around £11 billion in lost economic activity.

― A model has been adapted to show what it would take to be able to deliver one proactive test to detect an active Covid infection and one antibody test to detect previous infection to every person in Scotland at least once per month.

― This high-intensity testing programme would be backed by a network of community-based wellbeing officers who could help with contact tracing chains of infection as well as ensuring that those who have been quarantined are well supported.

― The total cost of this programme is estimated at between £1.0 and £1.5 billion to run for a year. The combined economic cost of a three month lockdown plus the social cost of lives lost, shortened or harmed by the pandemic is estimated at around £15 billion.

 

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