Academics devise blueprint for keeping future pandemics at bay

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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.

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)

– 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.

– 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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