insight & evidence

Test, Trace, Repeat


A Five-Point Strategy to Reopen with Confidence

COVID-19 is here and we must live and work with it being present. Test, Trace, Repeat is a five-point strategy, created by Peter Nicholson and Jeff Larsen, to reopen the economy in Nova Scotia (and elsewhere) with confidence.

The following is a short excerpt from the strategy – please download Test, Trace, Repeat – A Five-Point Strategy to Reopen with Confidence to read the full strategy.


This document outlines a strategy for emerging from the COVID-19 lock-down in a way that permits most social and economic activities to resume without sacrificing health and safety. The proposed strategy is described here in conceptual terms but is complemented with an extensive set of annotated references that provide supporting evidence and contain links to detailed accounts that can inform implementation. The proposal is presented in a Nova Scotia context but would be equally applicable in any jurisdiction.

The context

The COVID-19 lock-down has been achieving its purpose. The curve has more than flattened. New infections and deaths have trended down, although to varying degrees across provinces. But the emotional and economic toll is trending in the opposite direction. Now that summer is upon us and various jurisdictions relax their restrictions, growing numbers will refuse to remain cooped up. The dilemma is that neither will the virus remain cooped up. Public health experts know that the threat of a second wave still exists, and is inevitable without an effective containment strategy.[1] So the question everyone is grappling with is how to continue to safely restart social and economic life in a way that ensures we don’t find ourselves right back where we’ve just been.

Complicating the decision is a polarization of attitudes between (1) those who believe that advocates of extensive reopening value dollars more than lives, and (2) those who believe that the economic, and even the health costs of continued restrictions have not been given enough consideration in reopening plans. Certainly, health must not be sacrificed in hopes of quicker economic recovery because unless most Nova Scotians are confident that it is safe to venture out, economic life will remain stunted. That is why good health is also good economics. The polarization of attitudes nevertheless persists due to an implicit assumption that there is an inescapable trade-off between safety, on the one hand, and more nearly normal activity on the other, making it impossible to devise an approach to COVID-19 that would allow more of both. The purpose of this document is to show that there is such an approach.

Balancing safety and openness through better information

The key to having more safety and more activity is to have more information. During the first wave of the pandemic, when information and understanding were limited, it was prudent to impose blanket restrictions on non-essential activity on the assumption that it was equally likely that the virus could be anywhere. By now we have learned a great deal from experience at home and from around the world. With much more timely and comprehensive information about the modes of transmission of the virus, who is infectious, who are their recent contacts, and who is likely to be immune, we can become far more targeted in combatting COVID-19. By combining better information with substantially increased public health resources, we can avoid trading-off safety against more normal activity. We can end up with both better health and better economics while minimizing the risk of future waves of the virus. How?

to continue reading, Download Test, Trace, Repeat – A Five-Point Strategy to Reopen with Confidence

[1] A widely available and effective vaccine is almost certainly more than a year off despite encouraging progress. An attempt, alternatively, to achieve herd immunity (i.e. when a sufficient proportion of the population has been infected—and presumably immune—to stop the spread of the virus) would result in far more disease and death than would likely be acceptable whether on political, social or economic grounds.

About the author

Policy Wonks

The Policy Wonks are Dr. Peter Nicholson, Jeff Larsen, and Bernie Miller.

By Policy Wonks
insight & evidence