This is Stage 3 of ICAN's 7 Stage Elimination Framework. You can read the Introduction here.
Goal: To minimise the transmission of the virus within the bubble.
Timeframe: The advice remains in place until the beginning of Stage 7– Reopen. For a single county, this period could be expected to last between 4 and 6 weeks, depending on the number of new cases at initiation.
The seal stops the virus spreading into the county. The stay-at-home policy stops it spreading within the county. Both policies are necessary to achieve elimination, and their strengths multiply when used in combination.
In an environment without restrictions, the virus will spread exponentially and in proportion to the number of people in the county. Fortunately, the reverse is also true. When movement and interaction are minimised, the number of new cases will also decrease exponentially, so we can go from 1,000 cases to 100 to 10 as quickly as we went from 10 to 100 to 1,000. A stay-at-home policy is key to achieving that exponential decline.
If the people can reduce their contacts to only those in their household, the virus cannot jump from one place to another, which greatly simplifies the task of finding and isolating all cases. The policymakers can be confident that the mass testing program is picking up every infection, and the people will learn to trust the elimination protocol. Minimising interactions at the civilian level is deeply intrusive, but it is necessary to eliminate the virus in the shortest time possible.
Implementation | How to Minimise Activity
All bar the most essential of services are stopped for the duration of the elimination protocol. Schools and creches are not open. There is no non-essential retail, no personal care services, no construction, no café or restaurant take-away services, and no weddings or christenings. Some essential food retailers would continue their operations (including off-licences), but strict social distancing requirements would be in effect. Even then, we aim to deliver as much as possible directly to households. Ideally, the people would have no reason to leave their homes, bar for exercise, walking the dog, or whatever else is required to maintain their health and sanity.
The better we can adhere to these day-to-day restrictions on movement, the more room we have to make exceptions on compassionate grounds. For example, if there was a high level of adherence to the restrictions, it would be possible to allow limited numbers of people to gather for socially distanced funerals.
Implementation | Strict Does Not Mean Harsh
This protocol is strict, but we should not confuse strict with harsh. There are many levers that policymakers can pull to make the stay-at-home period a more tolerable and humane experience.
The government can work with local authorities, the GAA, residents’ associations, and other community groups to ensure that everyone in their communities is safe and cared for. Those conversations begin in Stage 1 – Prepare. Local taxi drivers and volunteers can offer to do odd jobs and errands like sending packages, collecting prescriptions, or simply checking-in on people. If feasible, local artists and performers could be invited to play for people in their neighbourhoods. National news and social media can support online group activities, such as cook-alongs, exercise classes, or educational projects. A 6-week lockdown is plenty of time to work on a new skill, like gardening, playing the guitar, or learning cúpla focal.
International | Ireland’s Soft Power
The pursuit of a national elimination plan for Ireland would be a globally significant event. The successful completion of the project would require the co-operation of the two countries on this island, with support from the governments on the island next door. This would be an internationally significant event and policymakers should use that profile to the nation’s advantage.
For example, the government could engage Airbnb to help make some of its properties available to serve as isolation and quarantine facilities. Ireland could invite Netflix to offer the Irish people a free month’s subscription to its streaming service during the stay-at-home period. LinkedIn could offer free access to online training courses to those who would be in the job market post-elimination.
There are many ways that the big multinationals could contribute to this project. Ireland only needs to give them the opportunity to do so. Given that they stand to benefit from the elimination of the virus, they might be keen to get involved. If there was ever a time for Ireland’s leaders to stand up and flex the nation’s soft power, this is it.