Q: In Taiwan, for example, I know they use the test and trace system a lot, we used to hear a lot about that in the UK, but we don’t hear much about that now. Is that going to be an important tool going forward in controlling the virus? Raj Bhopal: All the countries that closed down their borders in January took things very seriously in January or even very early in February have managed to use that approach, because number of cases were very small. When the numbers are very small, and you have a number of resources that you can throw it at, you can control things. But, by the time, we started to work on these ideas, we already had millions of cases. So, if you have millions of cases and they have ten contacts, that’s ten million people, how do you track and trace when you’ve got probably hundreds or thousands. It’s too much, it’s overwhelming. Test Track and trace systems were already overwhelmed in March and we had to rebuild them. I think there was a second chance after we had lockdown and we opened up in July, there was a second chance, but instead, we had a ‘Eat out to help out’ Policy and we encouraged people to travel. In retrospect, maybe that was not so wise, but it is very easy to be wise after the event, we have to keep our societies open, economy open, it is very difficult, there is no good move, this is the situation we are in. Currently test, track and trace systems can’t really work because of the number of cases we are dealing with 40,000 known cases, but, in reality, it’s probably about 60,000 cases a day, because many people will not be diagnosed. It can’t’ work. Once things start coming back under control, we can have another go with the test, track and trace system.
The only way this tool is effective unfortunately is if the use of it is mandatory and you can't switch it off but our culture would be very much against this.
perhaps it could be a reward - example music concert in New Zealand - everyone had to use the test and trace and be tested before attending.
But as Raj points out, high numbers are not easily managed. It does also require individuals to self log their allocated reference number to instigate alerts to others they may have been near. This could be of value for the future, but not imminently.
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