Guidance: Living Safely with Covid: Moving toward a Strategy for Sustainable Exit from the Pandemic

February 26, 2021 in ADPH Updates, Covid-19, Health Protection by Campbell Findlay

Directors of Public Health (DsPH), their teams and partners have been working tirelessly for over a year now with absolute determination to protect the health, wellbeing, and livelihoods of the communities they serve. As we reflect on the pandemic and look to the future, we recognise the vast learning that has taken place with our local, regional and national partners and, most importantly, in our communities. Public health has been put front and centre in many aspects of the response, demonstrating its essential role in protecting communities.  

Whilst uncertainty persists, two things are very clear. Firstly, this is unlikely to be the last time we will see a novel or emergent viral threat to the health of the public. The frequency of global public health emergencies from novel pathogens has accelerated in the last twenty years. We must be prepared for what comes next. It is likely this pathogen, and its already multiple variants, will circulate for some time. Secondly, systems and programmes of disease and threat management which seek explicitly to prevent and manage these challenges are crucial to both public health and economic success. We cannot divorce economy, sustainability or health from one another: they are interlinked and interdependent. 

As this virus has ripped through our communities, there has been much noise about the best way to tackle it. There has not always been a consensus on the impact of different harms and which aspects we need to focus our efforts on. Public health and scientific bodies and experts have drawn out learning at a pace never seen before. This has informed and strengthened the approach taken to reduce harm at all levels. 

DsPH have played a central role in trying to understand and make sense of competing views (some based on opinion and others on emerging evidence) whilst remaining focused on their statutory role to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of their populations. Never have we had to undertake the role we all love under such a glare from the media spotlight. The pressure to have exact answers has been daunting and exactness rarely possible, so we have always tried to be honest about what we do and do not know. As we move into the next phase of ‘living safely with Covid’, it is essential to consider what has and has not worked at a local, regional, and national level.  

The ADPH has the role of bringing together DsPH – and their rich experiences, skills and views – and presenting a collaborative view on the path ahead. This document builds on Protecting our communities: Pulling together to achieve sustainable suppression of SARS-CoV-2 and limit adverse impacts’ published by the ADPH in October 2020, which set out a series of principles for DsPH and local systems in responding to, and managing, outbreaks.  

In view of the significant change and learning taking place, we explicitly acknowledge the need for this to be a live document. We therefore encourage DsPH, and their teams, to share their feedback and insights. 

Professor Jim McManus  

Vice President, Association of Directors of Public Health 

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