Letter | What is Zero Covid?

galway daily news letter to editor cian mortimer people before profit galway debenhams workers strike

Dear Sir,

Zero Covid is a policy of active suppression of the COVID-19 virus. Instead of opting to live with the virus, we, as a society, deliberately attempt to limit its spread by reducing the amount of available space where it can do so, alongside hugely increasing testing and trace systems so that further spread can be minimalized.

In the short term Zero Covid requires us to change from Level 5, to what UCC Professor of Epidemiology Ivan Perry has described as, ‘Level 5 plus plus’, which includes closing all non-essential retail, halting flights for all but essential travel and a mandatory quarantine for all people coming into the country. While this means that there will be a lockdown with the lowest possible level of activity, the aim of a Zero Covid strategy is to allow for post-Lockdown life to return relatively quickly. The period of lockdown will be used to create the necessary Zero Covid infrastructure, that is expanding testing capability so that we can commit to 200,000 tests a day, to ensure that people can get tested locally, so that people with symptoms do not have to travel long distances, as well as urgently hiring more healthcare staff, including in contact tracing and other expanded roles in the economy created by Zero Covid.

How long should this lockdown be? Unlike Level 5, a Zero Covid strategy has a definite endpoint for a lockdown under Zero Covid. Once Community Transmission has been crushed and no new cases have been recorded in an area for 14 days, then that area can begin to reopen. Unlike the contemporary plan our response to the virus will be localised and with an expanded system for contact tracing, which will ideally go back 14 days from the date of a confirmed case. Investment in contract tracing will be an absolute necessity, considering its crucial importance in monitoring and halting the spread of the virus.

So what will life look like after Zero Covid? For reopening this will be handled on a county-by-county basis. Counties will be divided into three zones, Green, Orange and Red. Red zones will be the areas with the most restrictions as this will also signify high levels of community transmission, whereas Green will have the least restrictions and should have no community transmission. Green zones which border each other will be allowed to create a ‘bubble’ where people can travel between these counties. Orange zones will be those that border Red zones or have increasing rates of community transmission. Non-essential travel to these Green Zones will be restricted so as to avoid areas with higher rates of community transmission to not spread the virus to areas which have managed to crush it. Green Zones should also steadily decrease the amount of restrictions over time, so as to allow life to return to normal in areas without the virus.

People Before Profit’s plan for Zero Covid contains much more detail than can be just given here. It includes policies which begin at the start of the pandemic, such as empowering workers to not come into a workplace they feel is unsafe, and guaranteeing sick pay, alongside restoring the PUP to €350 and also projected into the future, such as the phased plan for reopening. A pandemic is an emergency which requires concerted effort to overcome. The two Governments we have had since the beginning of the pandemic, have have been opting to allow economic activity to coincide with the spread of the virus, to ensure that businesses can survive this period of significant strain. However, this obviously has not worked, because it does not halt the spread of the virus, but merely give it limited options in which to spread. We need a rapid change of policy in order to recover as quickly as possible from the economic effects of the virus, and Zero Covid is the only policy, which has been proven by the experience of other countries, to lead to a life as normal as before the virus.

Michael Crowley

People Before Profit