Are We Using Technology to Get us out out of the Covid19 Mess?

Here in Ireland we are recovering from Lockdown 3, case load is reducing but the hospitals and entire health service is incredibly overloaded. There is real concern that new variants may be more serious, transmissible etc, and not covered by the vaccines.

Yesterday our government announced new travel restrictions, essentially enforcing mandatory quarantine for arrivals into the country arriving from certain countries, or travellers without a negative PCR test. But there is an outcry from all sides; too little, too late; not sufficiently detailed etc etc. And it’s true it will take time consuming legislation. And various stakeholders such as the Garda are indicating monitoring home quarantine just won’t work. Again for legal and health and safety reasons.

Now we all know that politicians in general are mostly not individuals with deep expertise. And they and their civil servants are certainly not experts in responding to crisis situations with new systems and processes. And I’ll bet this is the same in many countries around the world. And we probably all share the same issues. We need to keep our countries open as much as possible to protect supply chains and essential business. But we really need to stop individuals bringing the virus, particularly increasing numbers of variants into the country. Some countries have solved this by mandating quarantine in a government facility. But here in Ireland there are so many legal and health and safety problems that it would probably take months to establish. So here the government has elected for mandatory quarantine, but at the individuals place of residence or a specific address.

My thinking is pretty simple. We can solve the monitoring problem tomorrow! Implement a second arrival form for all airports and ports immediately that gets the individual to give details of their phone, post code where they will isolate, and credit card and signature agreeing to be monitored and accepting a charge (of whatever the penalty is) if they move beyond the postcode. The government needs to get a very rapid agreement with telecom companies to log movements on those phones and a simple process to securely pass the phone numbers to the telcos. This would be a VERY simple system to implement immediately. Given the individuals’ agreement there are no GDPR or civil rights issues involved.

If we can log individuals’ movements by their mobile phone to track missing persons or criminal suspects, and most countries do, there is no reason why the setup could not be implemented literally immediately because the individual would formally accept to be monitored as a condition of entering the country.

Use the technology.

About davidsprott

Artist, writer, veteran IT professional
This entry was posted in Coronavirus, Covid19, Digital Transformation, lockdown, Pandemic, Personal Technology, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are We Using Technology to Get us out out of the Covid19 Mess?

  1. Brian Fish says:

    Hi David, to avoid the challenge of what would you do i tried to set out what a trackntrace and quarantinae system would look like. It’s a bit long I’m afraid. Underlying it is a design philosophy which came from JMA, and I later found at IBM. The technology (as you know) is only a small part of the solution it has to work in totality – people, proecess, system and knowledge. My take is we need a massively decentralised system to get the granularity of lockdowns as small as they can be: individuals, then streets, or workplaces. That needs local and centre working together somethingvthats been sadly lacking.

    For what it’s worth here is the link. I wrote it in January, thing are changing all the time.

    • davidsprott says:

      Hi Brian, I agree track and trace needs to be multi dimensional and decentralized and understandable and economically acceptable. You rightly point out self isolating is one of the major loopholes. Lots of countries pay people to self isolate!
      However I do wonder if we don’t need more tech. In my wilder imaginings I think, what if we started from the proposition that we are living on Mars where there is a hostile atmosphere. We would all wear space helmets and carry our own oxygen supply. No need for filtering there. Interestingly there are helmets like this on the market today; no oxygen, but high grade filters and air con to keep form misting. Cost around $250. if you gave one to every citizen, made wearing completely mandatory, would that be acceptable and cheaper than all the other costs we incur? In the UK 60M X $250 is 15Bn. Given current fully loaded costs that would be a huge saving. And remember we would probably make major inroads into illnesses caused by pollution. Cancer, MND etc etc. But would it be acceptable? Who knows? It would solve a lot of issues, like self isolating. . . .
      However if the UK achieves something like herd immunity via the virus by 3rd quarter, the vaccine is probably the best investment. But if we thought that we would get pandemics every n years in the future, we might change our approach!

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