The idea of paying everyone £500 for a positive Covid-19 test appears to have got the thumbs down. I was encouraged nevertheless, because it indicated that at least some government advisers are thinking radically. In that respect it was a mild corrective to the very depressing impression that there is a loss of any sense of urgency on the part of government about the need to find ways of expediting the lifting of lockdown restrictions. It is just incredible to hear government scientists musing in public about keeping businesses closed until June: There would be no such businesses left.
The cost of lockdown to the Government alone is £9 billion per week, never mind the cost to the Economy as a whole; the future of young adults; and of our children’s education.
So profound are these costs that we should consider spending any amount of money on initiatives that could contribute to ending them. Whether paying for positive tests to encourage testing is an idea with such merit, is something on which we might reflect further.
But here is an idea from the Adam Smith Institute on we should spend vast amounts straight away.
Expediting the vaccination program is the principal means by which we can reduce hospital admissions and so prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and therefore, justify ending the lockdown.
The restraint on our vaccination effort is limited supplies of vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine costs £16 per dose, but the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine -because it was seed-funded by the Government on the basis of a not-for-profit distribution – costs a mere £2 per dose.
We should offer AstraZeneca a commercial rate for each dose in order to subsidise an exponential growth in its productive capacity, allowing us to proceed much faster with vaccinations and ending lockdown.
That greater productive capacity would also be a further contribution on our part to enable developing countries to acquire the vaccine inexpensively, leading to fewer new strains and greater freedom to travel.
It would be worth every penny, and seems vastly more promising that paying someone for testing positive.