Leader for the Isle of Wight council, Dave Stewart, spoke to OnTheWight this morning about how the Isle of Wight could be used as a ‘potential pilot for testing a community’ for Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Dave explained how the Isle of Wight council are hoping to convince Government to use the Island as a pilot location for a testing and tracing programme in order to ‘Save our Summer’
“If we can identify who has and who hasn’t got the virus – with modern technology and Apps and things, we could manage a potential to keep a check on people and allow people to have the freedom by using Apps.”
Stewart: “We should be exploring as soon as we can”
He went on to explain that it could include, “checking people coming off the ferry”.
With the tourism sector in mind, Dave went on to add that they wanted to,
“Free the Island up as soon as we can – using technology to do this is something we should be exploring as soon as we can.”
Being more innovative
Keen to explore the role technology can have in moving forward, Dave told OnTheWight,
“We want to get out of a lock up in a safe way, so we’re not repeating the virus all over – we’ll follow the government guidance obviously – but because we’re an Island, we can do things a little bit differently and a bit more innovatively, I think it’d be great.”
Dave said they’ve been thinking through a range of ideas with believes that tech companies on the Island could be part of the solution,
“We’ve some amazing tech companies on the Island and I know they will come up with all sorts of ways and ideas.”
Stewart: “We’re in a new world”
Everyone wants to get back to normal life, he said, but added,
“It’s not just going to disappear unfortunately – we are in a new world, so we have to think how we would do that. If we had a spike in reported cases we could look at stepping back a bit – Apps – we would make that mandatory maybe. We’d say, you need a smart technology.”
He said the use of an App would ultimately help boost the economy and,
“Start to allow us to travel – key workers, second home owners would need the use of an App – they’d have to agree to isolate for 14 days.”
Stewart: “Like carrying a mini passport”
When OnTheWight asked how it would work, Dave Stewart replied,
“I suspect it’s like carrying a little mini passport really – this is my position, you can check it instantly.
“We’re all getting quite used to not using cash and spending money on our phones and all sorts of things, so if we could use the technology to track the movements and contacts, we start of be able to boost our economy.
“This is a good base to pilot things in different ways. We can stand up or close down things.”
Stewart: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”
When asked if the conversation with Government had already started, he replied,
“I’ve already fed my thoughts into Bob Seely and I’ve got various other avenues of access to Government that I use and I’ll be trying to encourage them to at least to consider the potential.
“It’s them up to them at the end of the day, they control the actual decisions, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
What are the chances of it happening?
OnTheWight asked Dave what the chances were of this happening. He replied,
“Well, I don’t know. The first thing you have to do is convince those that are in the decision making place that this might not be a bad idea, then they have to get their officers to explore the concept to see if they think it could work.
“The thing is, things are quite critical – there’s a lot of pressure on at the moment, everything is moving at a much faster pace, so if they think it’s viable, I would expect them to come back either directly, or through our MP and say, ‘OK – can we explore this a bit more’ and do a little bit more work begins the scenes.
“It’d be really nice if I could say in the not to distance future, I could say, you know what, we could be running as a pilot. We hope for that really.”
Listen to OnTheWight’s interview with Dave Stewart:
Radio 4 appearance
The discussion followed Dave’s appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
In a segment on the news programme, the regional variations of the infection rate of Coronavirus (Covid-19) was discussed and whether geographical locations being used in the next stage of combating the virus, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that large scale contact tracing could be trialled in areas of low transmission, or perhaps places where the lockdown could be eased first.
‘Save our Summer’
Using the catchy term ‘Save our Summer’, Dave explained,
“But if it means that a place like the Isle of Wight with a very controlled testing process that affects the Island it’s inevitably going to mean there’s a possibility that we as a local community can come out a bit earlier and maybe with some different approaches in a way that may well allow us to save our summer which is one of our priorities.”
Ross Hawkins, the reporter, goes on to say that any of this would depend on enough tests and staff, visitors would be kept away and the Government has already said it’s launched the largest diagnostic testing facility in British history.
As OnTheWight reported over the weekend, a drive-through testing facility is expected to open in Portsmouth this week, and OnTheWight are expecting news very soon about any plans for the Isle of Wight.
Image: © Visit Isle of Wight