A senior New York City Council member has spelt out a series of milestones which need to be passed in order for normalcy to return to the Big Apple — which has been under lockdown for almost a month now.

Council Member Danny Dromm – a visiting professor at Queen's University Belfast — lists three phases the virus most work through before strict quarantine and social distancing measures could be lifted.

He lists the phases as follows:

Widespread Transmission.

Low-Level Transmission

No Transmission

New York state is now being pummelled in the first phase with over 10,000 having died from the virus. However, advancing to the next phase could be possible in late May or June if social distancing and lockdown measures work in reducing the number of new cases, says Council Member Dromm. 

In the Low-Level Transmission phase, new cases would be traced back to their source and testing capacity would be ramped up dramatically while social distancing rules would be relaxed. Without extensive testing in the city of nine million, there can be no progress to the No Transmission phase. Cllr Dromm. In the No Transmission phase, there would be no social distancing but "a large volume of testing will be needed for anyone with Covid-19 symptoms". 

The Democratic politician doesn't indicate when he thinks New York might move to the No Transmission phase. However, he says progress will only be certain when three figures fall in tandem: the number of people admitted to hospital, the number admitted to ICUs and the number who test positive for Covid-19.

"When all 3 indicators have declined together for a set time period, the City will consider changing restrictions," says Council Member Dromm. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who bristled today at suggestions by President Trump that the order to re-open New York would come from the White House, says the Big Apple is not yet out of the woods.  

As the authorities here start to contemplate the world post-coronavirus, the question is could the North follow the same pathway out of the crisis? That is likely only to become clear when the scale of the expected surge is seen. But to date the levels of infection have been lower than predicted and can be managed within current health service capability — despite the Health Minister's plans to have the British Army for a field hospital on the Maze-Long Kesh site. 

However, testing has been slow to start and is not extensive - à la the much-derided British Government approach — and is nowhere near the scale which would be needed if the North were to move to the No Transmission phase or, indeed, to a Low-Level Transmission. In fact, the persistent warnings of Health Minister Robin Swann of a second surge in the autumn is an indication that there are no plans to move to the 'test, test, test' method favoured by the World Health Organisation in tackling Covid-19.