House number exit strategy from COVID-19

Darren Cartwright
(Australian Associated Press)

 

They have been used to ration petrol and water, and now researchers say house numbers could be the key to easing COVID-19 restrictions.

The odds-and-evens system could be used to stagger public outings and also allow for relevant COVID-19 data to be collected from two controlled groups, says Queensland University of Technology statistician Professor Adrian Barnett.

The plan allows for people to socialise or travel to work based on their residential address as a pathway to a normal way of life, Prof Barnett said.

Residents of odd and even-numbered houses are permitted outside on days coinciding with odd and even-numbered days of the month.

“You could use this as a return to completely normal life along with other restrictions like washing your hands more and keeping your distance,” the School of Public Health and Social Work lecturer told AAP on Wednesday.

“It would be a halfway house to get the economy re-started in a safer way…and if something does go wrong we would get more data on that.”

Prof Barnett co-authored the odd and evens exit strategy with economists from Oxford University, which was peer-reviewed after being published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday.

The strategy relies on an honesty system as it would be problematic trying to police it, Prof Barnett said.

However, even a 70 per cent compliance rate would provide meaningful data and assist with contact tracing.

“It’s not going to obliterate all outbreaks but it should make contact tracing easier because only half the population are out,” he said.

Even simple changes in temperature may indicate whether the virus is more active on days of extreme heat or cold.

“It gives us a neat experiment,” Prof Barnett said.

“On every day, we have similar groups of people who are exposed and not, creating an ideal natural experiment.

If adopted, Prof Barnett believes the proposal could also make it easier to spot a new wave of infection earlier.

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