The European Commission announced the concept of short work (reducing working hours) on 1 April as an initiative to help people keep their jobs and return to full employment as soon as the lockdown is over. We want to support this initiative and share our evidence-based analysis which shows that healthy adults must be allowed to resume their daily lives as soon as possible to have a fully operated system that efficiently handles a pandemic.
New data released in the US on Thursday 2 April showed 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits the previous week. The surge in new jobless claims is believed to be the result of locking up the pandemic of control that has kept Americans from their workplaces and forced many companies to close or lay off employees. We all know that unemployment can not only affect people’s finances but also their ability to take care of their health.
In addition, “home-stay” orders in several US states have also affected certain senior care operations; for example, free food delivery to seniors is delayed or re-routed even though parents are actually the group of people who most need extra care during a pandemic. It is better for healthy adults to be allowed to resume their routine immediately to help the community return to normal early.
According to a report published by the Italian National Institute of Health on March 17, 96.3% of fatal victims in Italy are patients over 60 years old. 99.2% of Italian coronavirus deaths are people with at least one chronic medical condition, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Based on demographics, we suggest the system must have vulnerable dwellings and, more importantly, offer them extra care. Young and middle-aged adults without serious health conditions must maintain their routine to maintain full community operations and, in addition, to help many households avoid the sad economic consequences of closing workplaces.
Only when the system is fully operational can we properly treat vulnerable groups and end the pandemic. It should be noted that Hong Kong and Taiwan seem to have held back the spread quite well and Japan and South Korea have seen good trends in calming the epidemic. All the countries mentioned above do not impose national locks or issue “stay at home” orders at all.
Germany also does not turn off everyday life; only food and entertainment outlets have been closed since the end of March. Germany has conducted intensive testing and strictly quarantined the sick and their contacts. It has also made the medical system ready for a pandemic. Therefore, as of March 28, Germany had around 53,000 confirmed cases and 395 deaths recorded. Case fatality rate (CFR) is 0.7% while collaboration from the University of Hong Kong and Harvard University estimates that the overall CFR of COVID-19 is 1.4%. Even more impressive, Germany is now beginning to treat patients flown in from Italy and France.
What Germany is actually doing is following the flu control protocol. Although COVID-19 is not a flu, coronavirus seems to show highly infectious properties and “flu-like pandemic patterns” after so many countries in the world report cases. Therefore, following the “modern” flu control protocol as a whole is the most relevant and sustainable step for most countries.
What does “modern” flu control protocol mean? The protocol should include a surveillance network that asks clinics and hospitals to report patients with flu-like symptoms for further virus testing and early follow-up care. In addition, they also need to adjust the allocation of resources to help the medical community prepare for a large number of patients to save those who are vulnerable, and remind healthy people to practice good hygiene all the time and apply home or institutional quarantine to sick people and those . contact for leveling the epidemic curve.
Lockdown might have worked well during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 – but not now. Lockdown might help China, but is not suitable for all countries. We look forward to the European Commission helping its member states to facilitate their locking as soon as possible. We also hope that the European Union shows the world good leadership and helps countries in other regions overcome the joint pandemic in the near future.
Pingyuan “Edward” Lu is Director of the Public Health Office for NGOs HSVG mission.
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