Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and London have said that the only way to immediately end lockdowns causing immense economic crisis is by a two-tier approach of segmenting and shielding.
The approach should begin with strengthening the protection given for the most vulnerable sections of the society, at the same time relaxing restrictions for the general public, they recommended in the paper published as a preprint in medRxiv.
The twin approach
Segmenting and shielding could help in easing the lockdown along with saving lives. Researchers have modelled a range of scenarios in order to show different kinds of restrictions and how they can be applied to different groups. The recommendations have been particularly submitted to the UK and Scottish governments, according to the University.
As the name suggests this involves segmenting the population to different 'risk groups.' The segments would be based on the person's medical history and also their health needs. This allows the children along with young and healthy adults more freedom, simultaneously ensuring the protection of the vulnerable.
Because of the effect coronavirus lockdown has on the society, easing restrictions should be done such that it would be both safe for the people, while those vulnerable to virus are protected, said Dr Bram van Bunnik, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Usher Institute
The vulnerable and those most prone to death by coronavirus are the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions would be shielded from contacting anyone potentially infected with the novel coronavirus. Further recommending people who share homes with the vulnerable and healthcare professionals should protect themselves from infection.
While the segmenting measures would help us ensure free flow by understanding who is vulnerable, shielding would help in keeping the transmission rates low. Measures such as self-isolation of those with COVID-19, quarantining households, contact tracing and voluntary social distancing are included here.
This policy demands high levels of hygiene and also protection at homes, care homes and hospitals, said the researchers, while recommending intensive screening of the contacts of vulnerable persons.
Target the vulnerable
The research models have made many assumptions on immunity to COVID-19. this is where they caution that much is not known about immunity in affected populations.
"Public health burden of COVID-19 is concentrated in a subset of vulnerable people." Thus by targeted protection to such people who need it the most, it would help the health system, while policymakers can partially relax restrictions for the majority, said Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.