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Greenbandredband – an explanation

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Steve Sieff

Greenbandredband – an explanation


In all the controversy over what the science tells us about Coronavirus, two things have remained relatively clear throughout.

1. The virus is dangerous to a very small minority of the population who can be relatively easily identified by reference to age and certain underlying conditions. The majority of the population display at worst mild symptoms and frequently no symptoms at all.

2. The virus is capable of spreading very fast, quite possibly transmitted by asymptomatic carriers in addition to symptomatic people.

Taking both of these together, it follows that if the identifiably vulnerable people can be shielded from infection, then the speed of the virus spread would enable the rest of the population to become infected and potentially immune relatively quickly. Even if immunity turns out to be temporary opening up the possibility of repeated infection, the low severity of the infection for most people means that repeated infections would be perfectly tolerable. The healthy could then carry on working in order to protect the vulnerable while scientists and medics worked to find a way of combatting the worst effects of the virus. In other words, the two key characteristics of the virus could be exploited to minimise the disruption and harm it causes.


Unfortunately, from an early stage, world governments seemingly assumed that we were unable to protect the vulnerable, and hence focused almost exclusively on the much more difficult strategy of preventing the virus from spreading. Instead of using the virus’ key characteristics against it, we chose to try and combat one of its strongest features.

This approach became known as ‘suppression’. It led us to social distancing, lockdown and face coverings. In short it required us to halt or severely restrict person to person interaction because these interactions are what the virus thrives on. Unfortunately they are also what people thrive on, so a suppression approach comes with a heavy cost to both physical and mental health. Had this been short term pain for long term gain then perhaps it would have been a tolerable sacrifice. But in fact a suppression approach potentially continues until the virus has completely vanished or been contained, so it seems to only offer long term pain and fear of infection for everyone, with a widely distributed vaccine as the only escape.

That is where we now find ourselves. Risk is assessed on the basis only of case numbers, which are taken from testing. The focus on impact – espoused by hospitalisations and deaths – has given way to a focus purely on prevalence, without any further consideration of whether that prevalence is leading to harm.


It has been heartening to see a gradual increase in the numbers of people prepared to question the suppression approach. But there are still very few proposals for how to change things. Herd immunity is often put forward as the answer, but it is clear that uncontrolled spread is very unlikely to be accepted by authorities or by a large proportion of the population because of the potential harm to those who are vulnerable. Without a realistic proposal to replace suppression – one that addresses the concerns of those who currently support that approach – protesting and campaigns to change our course will not succeed. To convince those responsible for making decisions, and those who support them, a realistic and balanced alternative is needed. That alternative may not be exactly what anyone wants, but the status quo is unsatisfactory for one reason or another for many people, so if an alternative proposal can tick enough boxes for people on both ends of the spectrum then it can quickly gain consensus.


For many people, probably including the majority who will read this, the ideal solution would be to treat Coronavirus much as we treat seasonal flu. Based on infection fatality rates and excess death forecasts, there are many who would see this as a perfectly proportional way to proceed. But by now it is surely obvious to all of us that the months of fear and panic will not be easily reversed. There are too many people who are afraid of this virus and have been conditioned to treat it as a unique risk with its own set of rules. Its impact on our daily lives has become so pervasive and all encompassing that it is simply unrealistic to expect a sudden return to what we want to consider ‘normal’. We will not be able to flick the switch and return to February 2020 when distancing/masks/restrictions on gatherings/forced closure of businesses would have been viewed as totalitarian and impossible to imagine in our country.

Does that mean we must accept a ‘new normal’ where all of us must curb our interactions in an ongoing fight against the spread of the virus? The answer is no. We can’t return to the way things used to be with a click of our fingers, but we can start the process of getting back there now, and the changes we can make immediately will radically improve on the status quo.


The first step towards normality is accepting that there are now many people who are petrified of being infected with Coronavirus. That might be for legitimate reasons or it might be because they have been befuddled by the media/government. Either way, we all have to be realistic and recognise that we are too far down the line to expect an immediate return to rationality. We have to ease back towards proportionality and sense. So going forward – at least for the short term – we need a system which allows freedom of choice without making people feel like those choosing freedom are being irresponsible or heartless. To succeed, that system has to be simple, cheap and capable of immediate implementation with immediate results.


Put simply, Greenbandredband is a proposal to get us out of the mess we are in now. It returns to the fundamental features of the virus and recognises that for great swathes of society, the risks associated with infection are extremely low. At the same time, we would not want to expose those who are vulnerable, nor would we want to force them to remain locked away in isolation while they wait for a vaccine.

The full details of how the system works can be found at In essence it is targeted distancing. So the less vulnerable are free to mix unrestricted, but they will maintain ‘social distance’ from those who feel that is required. Each individual is free to assess their own position and to choose accordingly. No-one is forced to take any position. If an individual is high risk but wants to take that risk then that is their choice. Similarly, if someone who is low risk feels more vulnerable than they actually are, then they can keep the protection of social distancing for themselves.


In order for people to be able to know when they are required to maintain a respectful distance and when they can interact normally some method of quick and clear communication is required. So the site recommends that people indicate which group they are choosing by displaying something which quickly gives a visual signal to everyone else. The logos on the site are free to use and can be adapted to be printed on clothing/stickers/bands so that each person’s preference is obvious to others. Of course where someone is able to communicate orally a visual marker may not be required. Provided communication is done clearly, it doesn’t matter how it takes place.


The FAQ answer many of the important questions people have asked, and I am happy to address any others. Although there is a brief discussion of some of the key scientific questions, that is not the focus of the site. The system does not depend on herd immunity or islands of isolated elderly and it is not an attempt to prove anyone right or wrong. There are many other sources of information which people can use to assess their individual risk/approach. Greenbandredband is a practical way for everyone to get closer to what they want, regardless of how they interpret ‘the science’.


I anticipate that readers of this will largely fall into the greenband group and that they will have two principal objections to the greenbandredband approach. Firstly that it normalises/accepts social distancing and secondly that it could lead to a deeply divided society. Both of these are legitimate concerns and to some extent I share them. Greenbandredband would not be my ideal society. I have no desire to see people walking around needing to display any type of affiliation to any group. And I would much rather see a proportional and measured attitude to risk rather than disproportionate and confused restrictions. Overall it is a step backwards for the society that I knew in February. But times have changed. As a step towards freedom and proportionality it would be a huge improvement on where we are now, so I reluctantly wear my green band or display the green logo every day, and I wait for a time when it won’t be required.

I can be contacted through the website

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