Turning the lights back on

I interviewed Nick Abel, the chairman of Wright Hassall yesterday and one of the topics we explored was when should businesses start to transition back to normal, whatever the new normal is. The short answer is we don’t know. I’ll post a link to the interview when it goes live.

I asked the question because I’d been thinking about life post-COVID-19 and how will we know when it’s safe to turn the lights back on and come out of self-isolation? When will the government say, “OK you can go back outside now.”

Casey Newton pointed me toward an article in the New York Times where Aaron Carroll outlines an answer to how will we know when it’s time to reopen the nation?

And there are basically four conditions:

  • Hospitals must be able to safely accommodate all COVID-19 patients. Supply has to catch up with demand.
  • The country must be able to test everyone who needs testing — which will probably amount to around 750,000 tests a week (this number will be different for the UK).
  • The state must be able to monitor confirmed cases and trace the contacts of the people that they may have exposed. This is where tech companies are being asked to play a role.
  • The number of cases needs to fall every day for 14 days.

That seems a tall order, especially being able to monitor confirmed cases and trace all of the people they may have come into contact with in order to test them to make sure they’re safe. China and South Korea have done it. But will we have the Will to do it considering the privacy issues at stake?

Will you be OK with putting an app on your phone that lets the government accurately actively track your whereabouts 24/7?

It’s worth thinking about that question because I think we’re all going to have to answer it at some point in the near future.

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