Academics devise blueprint for keeping future pandemics at bay

·2-min read

Academics have come up with a blueprint for keeping Covid-19 and future pandemics at bay.

Researchers have assessed which public health measures are most likely to prevent future surges of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.

Border controls, restricted entry, and quarantine for inbound travellers were essential for stopping not just Covid-19 but any future pandemic, experts said.

Other factors that could help included the use of GPS data from smartphones to see if someone had been in contact with an infectious person.

They could also help assess whether people were sticking to self-isolation rules, researchers said.

After analysing data from 118 studies, the experts, led by academics at University College London, came up with a number of essential actions to rapidly control surges and prevent future pandemics.

According to the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, they found that the best strategies for a successful find, test, trace, isolate, and support system included:

– Border controls, restricted entry, and inbound traveller quarantine applied early to reduce spread and encourage case finding.

– Early testing of high-risk people such as healthcare workers or care home residents.

A person holding a smartphone
GPS data from smartphones could be used to help control surges (Philip Toscano/PA)

– Using existing laboratories to expand testing capacity quickly.

– The speedy establishment of new testing sites to meet demand.

– The use of smartphone apps and GPS data for contact tracing and monitoring compliance with self-isolation.

– Understanding that quarantine requirements may need to vary. While in the UK, people are told to quarantine for 10 days after a positive infection, a number of other countries have adopted a two-week isolation policy. But the researchers pointed out that some people could still actively shed the virus three weeks after they first showed symptoms.

– Timely and adequate information to reduce uncertainty and anxiety.

– Mental, physical and financial support to enable people to stick to infection control regulations and self-isolation.

– Linked health service data to enable smooth co-operation between national and local bodies and real-time data sharing and dashboards.

– Regular press conferences by the central outbreak control team to update the public on the progress of the pandemic, changes in policies and to correct misinformation.

– Allowing the flexibility to adapt to rapidly emerging challenges.

The authors wrote: “This comprehensive systematic review identified effective strategies for a successful find, test, trace, isolate, support (FTTIS) system to interrupt the spread of a novel infectious disease.

“Results of our review may inform countries facing future pandemics.”

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