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Governments need more complementary solutions to vaccines to re-open borders and economies

It has becoming clear that the expectation of vaccines permanently eradicating COVID-19 is mistaken. It is believed the disease will circulate for the next few years, and seems likely to become endemic.

When COVID-19 first struck, governments were caught by surprise. Now they think need to think about the future and how to keep their nation running while COVID-19 infections continue to appear in their country.

Although vaccines failed to prevent all mild and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, they reduce patient death numbers and the ease the severest infections that require hospitalisation and some vaccines stop the virus spreading too. This would slow the endemic and make it easier to alleviate lockdowns without causing a surge of infections that could overwhelm hospitals.

There is growing realisation that the virus is likely to be a permanent fixture in our lives for the foreseeable future. This has huge implications on how governments need to respond.

Why there is no easy fix for COVID-19

One reason why the coronavirus will persist is that making and distributing enough vaccines to protect the world’s population is a huge task. Many countries will not be able to vaccinate their entire population until the middle of the year or perhaps even in the next few years.

Outside of the world’s wealthier countries, 85% of countries have yet to start their vaccination programmes. Until everyone has had their vaccination which may not be for another few years, the virus will continue to thrive on these unprotected citizens.

Another reason for COVID-19 persistence is that even as vaccines are making the disease less infectious and protecting people against death, new variants are making some vaccines less successful. Some variants are far more infectious, anything from 25 to 40% in the case of B.1.1.7 which was found in the UK. Virus suppression will require strict social distancing and strong monitoring as new variants may override current vaccines.

The third reason COVID-19 will persist is that lots of citizens will refuse the vaccine. A percentage of the population will not trust the government or the vaccine. And that also poses a huge problem.

Governments require long term sustainable solutions to deal with the virus

For all these reasons governments need to start planning for COVID-19 as an endemic disease. COVID-19 is currently being treated as an emergency that will go away but governments need to think of it as something that will continue to persist in the coming years and to come up with more sustainable solutions with the help of medical science and innovative technology.

New Zealand has aimed to get rid of COVID-19 by closing its borders to the rest of the world. In this way it has kept deaths down to just 25 but such a policy makes cannot be a permanent defence and eventually the country will come under growing pressure to open its borders and perhaps will have to cope with COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Governments will have to work out when and how to switch from emergency measures to policies that are economically and socially sustainable. The adjustment to living with COVID-19 begins with medical science and technology. Work has already started on adjusting vaccines to protect against variants and technology companies are constantly coming up with innovative solutions to tackle problems arising from the pandemic.

To avoid national lockdowns and lengthy school closures which come at a huge cost, the responsibility should fall more heavily on citizens and their civic duty. Wearing Masks, using an outbreak management app, and practising social distancing all should be part of everyday life.

Innovative technology to empower citizens to monitor their risk of COVID-19 exposure

One technology solution that can help with the outbreak management is Liberty & Passage. Their Liberty Open App has been developed by start-up company Access Anywhere in Singapore in partnership with Microsoft, SAS and Confluent.

It gives individuals the visibility of their risk to the transmission and alerts them if they have been exposed to the virus in the last 14 days. It empowers the citizen by giving them real-time information on their risk status and lets them record their health status also.

It is easy-to-use App for end-users downloadable to a smartphone. Once opted in, Liberty & Passage is ready to always protect the user anywhere. It is private, secure, and users can opt in or out at any time.

It procures and sends location data and other Non-Personally Identifiable Information to the central system. ln exchange, the user will get real-time risk status of the likelihood of infection.

It can also record access into corporate facilities, including body temperature at the point-of-entry.

Governments will have to look into new technologies like this innovative solution to help complement the work of the vaccinations programmes being rolled out and to set up outbreak management systems that will help them manage and prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

To find out more about how the Liberty App works, visit: Liberty App | Liberty & Passage (libertyandpassage.com)

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