Elimination of the virus ("Zero covid")

Many independent public health experts advocate that we should move to eliminate the virus from the UK. For example, in July 2020, the Independent SAGE group published their report A better way to go: towards a zero covid UK [1]. It was accompanied by a letter to the Chief Medical Officer [2].

This means reducing the incidence to close to zero, or in practical terms less than 1 case per million population per day.

This has been the successful strategy of China, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, and many other countries, and it is extraordinary that it is not already the strategy of the Johnson administration.

For comparison, the next chart is the same as the first chart, but with the addition of the UK. Rates are shown as per million population to facilitate comparison. By taking the right decisions, the UK could have a much lower rate.

See here for more details on countries that have eradicated the virus, or are close to it.

Further information

Objections and explanations

In order to be absolutely sure of zero new infections in a country, you'd need to test everyone in the population in a very short timeframe to check nobody has the virus. If you don't do that, given the number of asymptomatic cases, it could pop up anywhere in any number of small outbreaks.
That hasn't been necessary in the countries that have eliminated the virus. Asymptomatic people don't seem to remain infectious long term.

Nobody has any idea how far it has already spread in any population, given that many infected people have no idea whether or not they've had it.
We have a good idea of where the virus is provided there is a proper system of find-test-trace-isolate because most cases are symptomatic.

A substantial portion of the population don't want to be traced
It's not necessary to trace everyone who might have the virus. To eliminate the virus, we just need to get the R value below 1, and the chains of infection will gradually be broken. The lower the R value, the quicker this will happen.

Keeping lockdown measures long term will result in more rule breaking
Yes, that's another reason why we should eliminate the virus, so we can more or less get back to normal.

They also talk about restriction of personal international and internal travel
Most people cannot afford much more international travel if they are to stay within their individual lifetime carbon budget of 40 tonnes per person (https://www.carbonindependent.org/93.html). Travel is easier where the virus has been eliminated.

They talk about clearer messaging that we're "not back to normal yet". The public is sickening of hearing this.
The public need to be told the truth, and the Johnson Government has been giving the wrong impression that the epidemic has been largely dealt with.

How can we feasibly eliminate a virus that has been spreading in the community for months?
We estimate how contagious it is by the R value - how many cases each case spreads to.
Without any measures it was about 3 - under max measures, it's about 0.3.
We just need to keep R below 1 and the virus dies out.
The length of time it has been spreading is not relevant.

[1]A Better Way To Go: towards a Zero COVID UK (July 2020) https://www.independentsage.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/20200717-A-Better-Way-To-Go.pdf
First published: 20 Jul 2020
Last updated: 17 Sep 2020