Monday, May 11, 2020

Voluntary Response

In my view, voluntary responses to epidemic diseases are better than government-imposed ones. People know what level of risk they are willing to bear. A one-size-fits-all approach does not make sense.

In the modern world there is a tendency to assume that coordinated action can only take place if it is ordered and enforced by the state. That is not true. People can make good decisions about what to do if they receive good information.

  • During an epidemic, elderly and sick people are the highest risk. They can easily choose to stay at home. Most have family or friends who can do shopping for them.

  • Elderly people living together in rest homes are extremely vulnerable. Managers of rest homes should be vigilant in keeping viruses out. Their clients and their families should be putting pressure on them to manage this risk effectively.

  • People can find out what their friends and family have been doing and work out if they are likely to have been in contact with the disease. They can happily meet with some people, but would choose to stay away from others, who carry a potential risk.

  • Flying on aeroplanes is risky because it means close contact with people who may have been in contact with the disease, but people understood this risk well. Before the government shutdown was put in place, the numbers of people flying had dropped significantly, as they decided that the risk was too great and stopped travelling. Much of the spread of coronavirus occurred when people flew back home to beat the government lockdown.

  • Managers of small and medium workplaces know their staff and can work out who is at risk of bringing the virus to work. They can organise for them to stay at home to protect their other staff.

  • Screening can be very effective in minimising risk. By asking their staff and customers a few simple questions, people who are at risk of spreading the disease in the workplace can be identified and isolated, or excluded.

  • When moving around, people can easily separate themselves from other people, if they think that there is a significant risk of community spread of the disease. If they are really concerned, people can wear masks and visors.

  • Large meetings with strangers attending are very high risk for infection spread. Even before the government enforced lockdown was put in place, large numbers of people had stopped attending big meetings. Organisers were becoming concerned at being responsible for the consequences.

  • Businesses are innovative. Takeaway shops and restaurants have found ways to serve people without being exposed to the risk of infection from other people. Other retailers and shopping malls can also develop strategies to keep their customers safe from risky contacts. The risk might be greater, but people can decide if they want to take the risk, if they are willing to accept the consequences.

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