‘Traffic light’ system to ending lockdown measures

New proposals set out by UCL outline that easing the lockdown steadily through a traffic light system could ‘help to reboot the economy’.

The proposals, UCL state, should provide a clear sense of direction and install hope.

The proposals are co-authored by two economists, and have been published as a briefing paper;

Professor Paul Ormerod of UCL Computer Science, and Dr Gerard Lyons former economic adviser to Boris Johnson.

The traffic light system is to be operated in ‘three phases’ as outlined in the proposals;

Red: slight easing of restrictions but with strict caution while risk is still high.

Amber: conditions improve but we still need to be careful.

Green: when medical experts give the all clear.

The authors are suggesting that come early May, the first phase ‘red’ could be enacted to begin to ease lockdown measures.

As ministers debate lockdown exit strategy, the paper is being circulated in the Cabinet.

Professor Paul Ormerod says:

“A lockdown is necessary to limit the spread of the virus and save lives, but it is not feasible or practical to prolong it for too long.”

“A long lockdown will wipe out large swathes of the economy. There will be a negative impact both financially and mentally on too many people.”

“While full support must be provided to the health specialists, on a parallel track the economic experts should be planning now, for an exit strategy from the lockdown and for a restarting of the economy.”

“This has to be in addition to the implementation of policy, to minimise the hit to income and to demand.”

As outlined in the proposals, the traffic light system could operate as follows:

Red phase (May 1)

  • Deliberately called red to ensure people think before they act
  • Visiting friends and family allowed, but no visits to grandparents
  • More – but not all – types of shops could open and they would have to exercise strict social distancing, as most supermarkets do now.
  • Travel should still be discouraged and many international flights banned.

Amber phase (May 22)

  • Private car travel no longer limited
  • In order to minimise pressure on public transport, and crowds, there would have to be attempts to vary the rush-hour, with different opening and closing times.
  • Wearing masks and disposable gloves could be compulsory when using public transport.
  • Restaurants could reopen but with strict seating demarcations, to uphold social distancing.
  • Home working advised for those that can.

Green phase (June 13)

  • Public fully released from lockdown if health experts allowed it
  • Sporting events or mass gatherings could take place, and places of worship reopen.
  • International travel could return to normal.

The traffic light system has been developed using the ‘analytical framework of the epidemiological models’ with ‘key behavioural insights from economics.’

Professor Ormerod goes on to state:

“Epidemiological models have provided the intellectual underpinning of a policy for lockdown.”

“They are crucial for helping to predict the way in which the virus spreads and signalling future challenges, such as the second wave of infections.”

“However, behaviour will be different after this first wave, either because of the lessons people have learned during this crisis, or because of the constraints placed upon them by rules and regulations.”

“As economists, we are used to the idea that people alter their behaviour as the set of incentives which faces them changes, and that’s why economists will have a key part to play in the recovery.”

Alongside the traffic light system, policy makers could develop a ‘3 T’s mitigation strategy.’

‘Testing, Tracking, Treatment.’

‘The 3 T strategy would involve mass testing for active disease, exploring technology options for tracking who has been tested and who they’ve come into contact with;

‘and treatment which involves both developments towards a vaccine, as well as progress towards flattening the curve, reducing pressure on the NHS and demands on the limited number of Intensive Care Unit beds.’