Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
1 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

“Perfectly reasonable“ for UK to lift lockdown before full tracing system in place, says WHO expert

By Samuel Horti

The World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19 has said it would be reasonable for the UK to begin lifting lockdown measures before a full coronavirus tracking and tracing system was in place.

The government plans to launch an NHS coronavirus tracking app and recruit thousands of people to help trace the spread of Covid-19 within the next few weeks. WHO’s David Nabarro told the BBC that a contract tracing system was “absolutely essential” for reducing transmission, but that it would be safe to ease lockdown restrictions before such a system was up and running. 

“You don’t need to have 100 per cent contact tracing in order to get the R number down,” he said, referring to the number of people someone with coronavirus goes onto infect, which the government insists must remain below one.

“The contact tracing is an absolutely essential part of reducing transmission, and getting that capacity as widely spread as possible is key to getting the transmission as low as you can. But you certainly can release the lockdown while you’re building up the case finding and contact tracing capacity – that’s what most other countries are doing.

“They don’t wait until everything is ready and so it’s perfectly reasonable for Britain to be thinking through these options and working out how it’s going to do the next steps.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas