Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19: Smart Technologies and Exit from Lockdown (Singapore)

How will we exit lockdown? Once the rate of spread of COVID-19 has been reduced sufficiently, we should be able to switch to a more precise, targeted methodology. (Of course, widespread testing is a prerequisite baseline capability...) Below are some methods in use in Singapore.

This is the most benign app for contact tracing I can imagine. But it requires a large fraction of people to be running it on their phones. Geo-location capabilities are strong enough that most governments could do this without the opt-in app. They should prepare a legal consent form for future use that permits aggressive contact tracing using all data available (e.g., from Google or Apple or cell carriers). Most people who are diagnosed with CV-19 would probably consent to the use of their geo-location data to help others they may have infected.

Here's a simple system for enforcing home quarantine. If the UK and US governments can't deploy something like this to help us exit from lockdown in a month or two, then our civilization is toast!

The simplest technology of all is to get everyone to wear a mask in public. Not a fancy N95 mask - even a home made paper or cloth mask would do to stop droplet spray. This is likely as effective as social distancing in stopping virus spread. I suspect widespread use of masks may have helped countries like Japan and Taiwan significantly.

People who are bemoaning the economic costs of this lockdown should be very focused on technologies and behaviors that will allow us to exit as soon as possible, while keeping the epidemic under control.

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