Crowdsourcing Ideas for Exit Strategies

On April 10 we launched Strategies versus Corona, a platform to generate, model, and evaluate different exit strategies through a massive Open Science and Citizen Science based initiative.

In the first phase, we called upon citizens and scientists from all walks of life to submit ideas on how to lift the lockdown (so-called ‘exit strategies’), and propose criteria on which these strategies should be evaluated. By doing so, we hoped to generate ideas beyond what is commonly discussed in media outlets and the scientific literature and to encourage unconventional and creative solutions.

We received a total of 24 proposals, which can be read in full here. As hoped, the proposed strategies differ greatly in their focus. We encourage you to browse through the document, and want to particularly highlight the detailed entries concerning vaccines and testing by Prof. Henk van Beijeren and Prof. Jan Verhoef; an entry on solidarity by Prof. Rick Quax; and an entry on a model that has been used to forecast COVID-19 in Belgium by Prof. Bhattacharya. In the following, we will give a broad flavour of the other strategies that have been submitted.

Many strategies focused on regulations for individuals and made a distinction between those individuals that are ‘vulnerable’ and those that are not. Many of these strategies defined vulnerability in terms of age, considering age groups above 50+ or 60+ as vulnerable. Other strategies highlighted that what makes an individual more or less vulnerable should be carefully assessed, considering both age and other health factors.

Another notable difference among strategies is whether a lockdown for vulnerable people should be voluntary or not. One strategy proposed a voluntary lockdown so that people could opt-in and opt-out of. Crucially, when opting-in for a lockdown, one would be provided with all necessary help, such as getting groceries delivered and receiving (virtual) social assistance.

There were a number of strategies that focused on specific policies, for example to open up different regions in the Netherlands. Some proposed to specify the regions based on the number of infections a region has; for example, one might start with opening up regions with few infections and test aggressively, which combined with contact tracing should keep infections low.

Other strategies focused on protective measures like wearing a plastic mask, or creating different lanes in hallways and door openings that are separated by plastic. One proposal mentioned so-called ‘immunity passports’ which would signal that a person has been infected and is (hopefully) immune, thus being able to go back to ‘normal’.

As an aside, we found this recent podcast episode by the New York Times about the next one or two years of the pandemic very informative — and sobering. We curate a number of selected resources that might also be of interest to you here.

Do you have a proposal for an exit strategy or criteria on which they should be evaluated? If so, you are still very welcome to submit your suggestions!

The proposals we received illustrate how many different perspectives can be taken to formulate an exit strategy. To come up with a complete exit strategy that could potentially be applied nationwide likely requires the combination of a multitude of strategies. In addition, working out a complete exit strategy is an enormously complex and delicate task, as it has to cover many aspects: from assessing different medical, economic, psychological, and social consequences to considering the feasibility as well as potential unintended side-effects. Clearly, finding an adequate exit strategy requires a multidisciplinary approach.

This is the goal of the second phase of Strategies versus Corona, which we will announce very soon. Stay tuned!