Monitor-Test-Trace-Isolate: Policies for Understanding and Reacting to COVID-19 Infections
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Policy Brief

Monitor-Test-Trace-Isolate: Policies for Understanding and Reacting to COVID-19 Infections

Part five of a series discussing strategies for combating and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. Technologies that enable contact tracing and sharing of verified COVID-19 status while preserving privacy and autonomy.

Several countries reduced the incidence of and eventually eliminated COVID-19 largely by implementing systems for identifying those who have or might have COVID-19 and encouraging them to self-isolate until they are no longer infectious. States, municipalities and private organizations looking to reduce the threat posed by COVID-19, both now and in the future, may wish to consider adopting similar systems.

The systems put in place in other countries relied in part on actions taken by government-run health systems. While some states might choose to follow that practice, similar systems can be implemented largely or even completely by the private sector. Moreover, as Iceland has demonstrated, such systems can be implemented entirely voluntarily. And regardless of whether states and/or municipalities choose to implement such systems, it is not necessary to create new federal or state agencies in order to achieve any of this.

This brief describes such an approach. To do so, it seeks to integrate insights from the relatively successful strategies adopted in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Iceland and Germany, along with novel technologies that enable contact tracing and sharing of verified COVID-19 status while preserving privacy and autonomy. And we add to this another potentially highly cost-effective strategy, symptom monitoring, which was not available earlier due to lack of data, but can now be implemented and in so doing could help identify clusters almost as effectively has extensive testing and at much lower cost.

Finally, we discuss ways in which data from testing and symptom monitoring can be used by companies and other organizations to determine what kinds of activities and what kinds of personal protective equipment are appropriate given the level of infection risk implied by the data.

Full Brief — Monitor-Test-Trace-Isolate: Policies for Understanding and Reacting to COVID-19 Infections

This brief is part of a series: Strategies for Combating and Recovering From the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Julian Morris is a senior fellow at Reason Foundation and director of innovation policy at the International Center for Law and Economics.