Sup­port for ‘traf­fic light’ Covid re­sponse sys­tem

Irish Examiner - - News - Cianan Bren­nan

A ‘traf­fic light’ sys­tem for man­ag­ing fu­ture re­sponses, in­clud­ing re­gion-spe­cific re­sponses to the Covid-19 pan­demic has re­ceived “broad sup­port” from the Na­tional Pub­lic Health Emer­gency Team, po­ten­tially paving the way for lo­calised lock­downs, it has emerged.

The idea for such a sys­tem was first broached by NPHET at a meet­ing in early July as it dis­cussed how to give “a more nu­anced ap­proach” to the on­go­ing re­sponse to the pan­demic.

From that point of view, the con­cept of a “three-level traf­fic light” sys­tem was in­tro­duced as a po­ten­tial means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the pub­lic, health­care work­ers, and the Gov­ern­ment.

This could be used, min­utes from an early-July NPHET meet­ing show, as a means of as­sess­ing the sta­tus of the dis­ease in the coun­try at large or in spe­cific re­gions at any point in time.

Key to in­form­ing the sta­tus of any area un­der con­sid­er­a­tion would be the “epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion around the coun­try and health ser­vice im­pact therethe min­utes state.

Such a sys­tem could, in the­ory, be used should the virus be at higher lev­els of preva­lence in some re­gions as op­posed to oth­ers, po­ten­tially open­ing the doors for a sys­tem of lo­calised lock­downs, as has been seen in dif­fer­ent parts of Europe, no­tably the UK, in re­cent days.

“It is in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to be able to de­tect lo­cal resur­gences of the dis­ease and to re­spond promptly,” the min­utes said.

“While re­port­ing has cen­tred on a na­tional ap­proach to date, a move to in­clude data at lo­cal/re­gional level may be re­quired and en­gage­ment with re­gional part­ners should be in­cluded in de­vel­op­ing the plan.”

Sub­se­quent con­sid­er­a­tion of the plan at later meet­ings noted po­ten­tial is­sues re­gard­ing “pro­por­tion­al­ity and na­tional sol­i­dar­ity” with re­gard to re­gional-spe­cific re­sponses.

It was fur­ther noted the “chal­lenge” rep­re­sented by rul­ing that a re­gion should move from one phase to an­other — with ‘from green to am­ber’ be­ing one ex­am­ple raised.

Key to this con­cept would be the “em­pow­er­ment” of reof” gional struc­tures, NPHET heard.

“If there is an out­break in an area, then that area needs to have a mech­a­nism whereby it can im­ple­ment lo­calised mea­sures,” the min­utes of its July 16 meet­ing stated.

The idea of colour-coded re­sponses to the pan­demic has been seen pre­vi­ously in the fall­out from the ar­rival of Covid-19 world­wide, with Ire­land’s des­ig­na­tion of 15 ‘Green List’ coun­tries — travel from which no-longer re­quires the two-week pe­riod of self-iso­la­tion — be­ing per­haps the most prom­i­nent.

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