It seems that the government is struggling to agree a plan to relax the drastic lockdown that is presently in place in response to COVID-19 in the UK. Maybe a new option is worth considering. I call it voluntary exposure (or controlled infection), and have just done a simple first analysis which shows that voluntary exposure might look attractive to some people, although definitely not to others.
Here is the introduction to a new CJBS working paper that contains the analysis:
The UK-wide lockdown to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. It limits all except essential workers to their homes except for brief periods, leading to a drop in their quality of life, and an economic cost as they lose part or all of their income, possibly for an extended period.
The hope is that this measure will lead to a flattening of the curve of infections, allowing the health service to cope with cases as they occur without becoming overwhelmed. But it also means that people do not know if they are infected until their symptoms show, and allows them to pass on the infection to people they encounter in shops, or on the street, while infectious.
There is another way. The government could offer the opportunity for healthy people to choose to be immediately infected with COVID-19 in a controlled way and then confined to their homes until they are no longer infectious. They would then be able to resume something closer to normal life, once sufficient numbers were immune and the government allowed it. Those at high risk or with pre-existing conditions would not be offered this, or presumably would not take up the offer if they were offered it…
The paper is, as it says, a first analysis of a new idea, using a particular method based on calculating the utility, or worth, of different actions. It’s really just a proof of concept, to show the idea shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It needs more verification, testing and collaboration if it’s to be used seriously, so I am keen to get comments from as many perspectives as possible.
Edited on 23 April to change the term ‘controlled infection’ to the more accurate ‘voluntary exposure’ and to expand the final paragraph with a more complete statement of the present status of the work.