Future Health publishes Covid 19 ‘green zone’ report

Future Health has today published a new report calling on the Government to go further than the roadmap published Monday 22 February 2021, and set an aim for the UK to become a Covid ‘green zone’ by summer.

The paper entitled: ‘Time to go green, why it is time to build a UK Covid green zone’, sets out five steps for the UK to achieve its ‘green zone’, by the summer; where infection rates are below 1,000 per day, borders are tightened and enhanced virus surveillance is in operation. The steps are:

  • Vaccinations – Continuing to work hard on driving up vaccination rates, particularly amongst more sceptical and harder to reach groups
  • Borders – Borders are open with other green zone countries, with health passes (a combination of vaccine and testing information) used to facilitate safe travel. Borders are closed with red zone countries. New cases are effectively isolated at the border through quarantine and testing measures
  • Test, Trace and Isolate – Introducing mass testing to support the re-opening of society and the economy, and greater financial support for those asked to self-isolate
  • Non pharmaceutical interventions – The maintenance of certain non pharmaceutical interventions (masks, social distancing, limited gatherings) in particular circumstances; but easing these as infection rates drop
  • Business support – Maintaining targeted financial support for businesses impacted by ongoing restrictions until the ‘green zone’ ambition is met

The research paper argues that whilst the UK’s vaccination strategy is a major success, it is only part of the policy solution to managing the pandemic and finally ending it.

The study points to other countries internationally that have suppressed the virus, without mass vaccination, including Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Singapore, Norway, Finland and Iceland and notes how tough borders and compliance with a range of restrictions have been at the heart of their respective successes to date and in particular in getting their economies working effectively through the pandemic.

It is in coupling together such moves with the vaccines, the report argues, that presents the best chance for the UK to move towards the pandemic end game.

Covid ‘green zones’ are increasingly being viewed internationally as ways to ensure that the virus is suppressed and new variants are controlled. Green zones have no open borders with red zone countries (where the virus is still spreading) and effectively isolate any incoming cases, to maintain ‘green zone’ status. Earlier this year clinicians and academics in Germany tabled proposals for adopting such a model[1].

There is no doubt that such an ambition in full would be significantly challenging for the UK to achieve. However the report notes that a UK adapted version of a Covid green zone, where infection rates are held low (below 1,000 per day as advocated by the British Medical Association), borders are closed with red zone countries and new infections and possible variants entering the country are quickly isolated and monitored is possible.

Releasing the report today Future Health Founder and Programme Director Richard Sloggett said: “The UK’s 2020 pandemic response was defined as a health versus economy policy see-saw. Looking around the world at what works and with the vaccines domestically being rolled out at pace, the Government has a chance to adopt a new approach, where these two forces are brought closer together. In setting a UK Covid green zone objective, the Government can avoid future national lockdowns and effectively balance the health of the population, the capacity of the health service and the safe opening up and recovery of the economy. This would give us the best chance of having a great British summer.”

The full report is available here: Green zones COVID 19 FINAL

[1] https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2821%2900186-0