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7-point plan to return to public life
German researchers submitted a letter of recommendation describing measures to gradually normalize public life. In their view, the most important roles in this regard are the nationwide use of mouth-nose protective masks, the short-term use of mobile data and the expansion of test capacities.
The National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina published the second ad hoc statement entitled "Coronavirus pandemic - health-related measures". The document focuses on conditions under which a return to normality is conceivable without the pandemic getting out of control.
How do we get back to normal?
The measures described primarily aim to contain the epidemic and protect vulnerable population groups. A targeted and significant increase in capacity in public health and the care system is also crucial. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the first three of the seven points are particularly relevant. Already applicable distance and hygiene recommendations have not been listed again and are a prerequisite. Here are the points in detail:
1. Nationwide use of mouth-nose protection
Wearing mouth-nose protection masks reduces the transmission of viruses, especially by reducing the released droplets. Since a large number of unrecognized patients move around in public spaces without any clear symptoms, wearing protective masks across the board can slow down the spread of the infection and thus indirectly reduce your own risk of developing the disease. Mouth and nose protection also serves limited self-protection.
The academy recommends that a gradual relaxation of the restrictions should be accompanied by the full coverage of mouth and nose protection. This should apply to the entire public space, including companies, educational institutions and local and long-distance public transport. The prerequisite for this measure is the nationwide availability of protective masks. The shortage can already be bridged by self-made masks, bowls and towels. It should be noted that the mouth, nose, chin and the side edges are covered as completely as possible.
FFP2 / 3 masks should be reserved for the medical field, nursing and special professional groups. For more information on protective masks, read the article: RKI recommends wearing protective masks.
2. Short-term use of mobile data
The mapping of spatial and temporal contacts between people is of great help in identifying infected people and people at risk. The academy therefore recommends making digital tools such as a corresponding app available for mobile phones as soon as possible. In such an app, people should voluntarily and anonymously provide such data in compliance with data protection and personal rights. The data will be deleted after a defined period of time.
You can find more information about apps for corona containment in the article: Corona app: Transmission of COVID-19 could slow down significantly.
3. Increase test capacities
The test capacities in Germany are around 350,000 PCR tests per week. According to the recommendation of the academy, these capacities should be expanded further by means of new validated rapid tests in order to enable a wider testing. In this way, spreading herds could be better limited and quarantine measures could be imposed in a more targeted manner. Veterinary testing facilities and other research institutions could be involved in the implementation.
4. Representative testing of the population for infection and immunity
In addition, the Academy recommends that representative and randomized testing of the population is required. This could provide important insights for a realistic assessment of the epidemiological situation, such as the relative proportion of infected, ill, seriously ill, intensive cases and deceased as well as the presence of immunities. Such tests could be used to more reliably calculate which measures work and how. For example, measures could also be adapted regionally.
5. Assessment of risk factors
The academy suggests digitally recording the risk factors of the sick person when registering new illnesses. These include, for example, age, existing medical conditions and smoking status. Such factors significantly influence the risk of serious illnesses. The information on how many high-risk patients are infected is used to estimate the utilization of the public health system.
6. Restructuring in clinics and the health system
The Academy believes that the necessary and temporary restructuring in the clinics and in the public health system due to COVID-19 must be regularly checked and adjusted. It must be ensured that other acute and chronic diseases are not neglected. This also counts for important diagnoses for the early detection of diseases as well as for long-term therapies. Here, digital offers such as video consultations could play an increasing role.
7. Willingness of the population
The decisive factor for the return to normality was above all the willingness of the population to implement the recommended measures. Since SARS-Cov-2 can be transmitted on average 2.5 days before the first symptoms begin and many infected people only have mild symptoms, sustainable and responsible behavior by the population is crucial. Measures relevant to health are currently particularly important.
Take an example from South Korea
The academy points out that similar measures have had great success in South Korea. At the beginning of the pandemic, the country was one of the most affected countries in the world. Now the South Koreans have the situation under control and have largely resumed public life. The goal must be to reduce the number of new infections caused by an infected person to less than 1.0 so that the total number of sufferers can be kept at a level that our health system can cope with.
Mitigate economic consequences
Health is currently a priority in the containment measures. In the long term, however, social and economic consequences must be taken into account, emphasizes the academy. The "Leopoldina" is currently working on further statements with recommendations for a sustainable "restart" of the economy. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina: Coronavirus pandemic - health-related measures (2020) (published: April 3, 2020), leopoldina.org