As the government weighs up its options in slowly easing coronavirus restrictions across the country, an Australian professor has proposed a unique strategy the country could adopt that relies on people’s house numbers.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has routinely stressed any lifting of restrictions will be a staggered and careful approach.
Professor Adrian Barnett, a statistician with QUT’s School of Public Health and Social Work, is co-author of a paper published this week in the British Medical Journal and believes his strategy would allow the government to ease restrictions with care.
He suggests allowing alternate households to leave their homes on a day-to-day basis dependent on whether their house number is odd or even.
For example, only odd numbers could leave their homes on Monday, while only even numbers on Tuesday, with the cycle repeated moving forward.
“We propose a strategy where governments relax lockdown gradually, in a way that would both provide evidence on whether continued lockdown is needed, and ensure that the risks of infection are minimised and distributed fairly across society,” the paper says.
“A way to achieve this is alternating lifting restrictions for a limited period on only half of the population at any one time. Such a policy could be implemented via an odds-and-evens policy based on house number.”
The paper notes such methods have been used before, including in Beijing to tackle pollution, with the government using an odds-and-evens system for car number plates.
In Colombia, a similar concept has been used during the pandemic, restricting men and women to certain days they can leave their homes.
Prof Barnett said the method could be used to decide who goes to school or into the office, for example.
He said he believed it could be enacted by the government as an “interim policy” to see whether the removal of a restriction actually worked.
“Rather than totally removing restrictions and getting everyone back, which would be risky, we could have the staggered approach. Hopefully, if things look good and go well, then you could go back to full,” he told ABC News on Wednesday.
Prof Barnett said if there was an unusual daily event that sparked a surge in cases, only half of the population would be affected – allowing the National Cabinet to “get some idea of how that influenced infection numbers”.
The paper comes just days before Friday’s eagerly anticipated National Cabinet meeting, which Scott Morrison has outlined as the day a decision is made on what restrictions will be rolled back moving forward.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said previously sport and gathering size would be considered at Friday’s meeting.
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