When will things get back to normal? Wuhan, the city in China where the coronavirus pandemic first started, is only emerging from lockdown after 10 weeks. What is the exit strategy in Europe?
In the long-term, we will need a vaccine. However, that could take time (typically six to ten years, though experts hope the timeframe for developing a vaccine for the coronavirus we’re facing, SARS-CoV-2, could be drastically shortened to one or two years).
In the meantime, what options are available? Many EU Member States (including France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland) are developing tracing apps that citizens can install on their smartphones, something Asian countries such as China and Singapore have deployed successfully to help detect and contain new outbreaks. However, there are privacy concerns around such technology (not to mention calls to develop a common EU app, rather than numerous national apps all following different approaches).
Another option would be “immunity passports”, to prove you’ve already caught the virus and have developed the necessary antibodies for immunity. However, several countries have had problems with faulty testing kits reporting false positives and negatives. Scientists are also unsure about the capacity for reinfection, as well as how long immunity might last for. There are also issues if the virus should mutate and reinfect people with immunity passports despite their antibodies.
Emerging from lockdown is likely to take a “phased” approach. Austria, for example, is planning to gradually relax lockdown restrictions, with the option of tightening them once more should there be a surge in cases. However, some European countries are worried that talk of ending the lockdown is premature, and suggest that different countries will anyway likely operating on different timescales.
How do we leave the lockdowns? What should be the “exit strategy” for resuming normal life? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!