FAQs

But isn’t this system against the law in my region?

Please don’t break the law. In most places there is no reason why you can’t use greenbandredband to express your views but at the moment many countries do still have rules in place restricting freedom of movement or gathering. As governments around the world move to more targeted rules which allow for more judgement to be exercised by citizens we hope that by demonstrating how you feel, you can help them produce rules which represent the differing views of the people they represent, neither forcing people to move too fast or preventing them from moving fast enough.

It sounds a bit divisive - like choosing a political party

The aim of the system is not to divide us into separate groups and the colours are not intended to represent any political viewpoint. The greenbandredband system aims to promote mutual respect and freedom by allowing green banders freedom of interaction between themselves while respecting red banders' desire to remain protected. In that way we can move away from lockdowns at a pace which is comfortable for all. In a world of very mixed messages and very different attitudes to risk it is not surprising that people will form very different views. As much as possible this system seeks to respect everyone’s position.

Is one colour right and the other wrong?

No. This isn’t the force. There’s no dark and light. The band you choose has to be a personal decision. Try and weigh up as much evidence about your own risk and the risk you pose to others. You may be inclined towards green band in some circumstances and red band in others. You will find a balanced discussion on some of the COVID-19 issues at the bottom of this page.

Can I change my mind or switch between colours?

Yes, absolutely. Your own risk assessment may change with your own circumstances or information that emerges about the virus.

How do face coverings fit in?

The greenbandredband system deals primarily with distancing measures as (a) distancing is currently thought to be more effective than face covering and (b) distancing more directly affects the level of disruption to people's lives. Face coverings are used for one of two reasons. Either to mitigate risk where full distancing cannot be maintained, or to minimise risks of transmission even where close contact has not occurred. The reasoning affects the approach. 1. If the distancing rules in a region offer a choice between full physical distance or reduced distance with mitigation, then red banders should be entitled to protection in accordance with local rules/guidance. So reduced distance and face covering would be deemed acceptable to a red bander in that region where full distance is not practical. 2. If a region recommends or mandates face coverings irrespective of distancing then this is outside of the greenbandredband system as it does not govern how people interact on a close contact basis.

Do I have to wear a band?

No. You may prefer to download and display the green or red logo. Anything that clearly communicates your position is fine. The proceeds from our bands go to charity but you can certainly come up with your own way of communicating. Whatever you choose to wear/display just make sure it is clear. Just putting on a red or green item of clothing will probably not be enough to make your choice clear to others. Regardless of whether you obtain a band from this website, it could be very helpful if you would register and state your preference for green/red/undecided. Not meaning to be impolite, but it’s not that we particularly want to know who you are. It’s just that thinking ahead, if enough people register then those numbers could help inform policy for those making the big decisions.

What about mixing with my household if I’m red band?

This is about clear communication and rational choice. If your general approach is to prefer distancing so you wear a red band in public, but you can let certain people know that you don’t feel distancing is necessary with them, then that is fine – provided they agree of course. That will often be the case for households, and may also be true of some workplaces. As availability of testing advances it may be that a red bander feels able to relax distancing rules in relation to a greater number of friends or colleagues. Some states are doing this through the use of designated ‘bubbles’ or use of other mitigation measures (like face coverings).

I’m mostly green band but I don’t want to mix with people who definitely have the virus or who are showing recognised symptoms. So should I choose red?

No. If that is your only reservation then you should choose green. For most people there is a line between being prepared to mix with people who believe that they are free of Coronavirus or don’t know they have it and mixing with those who know or have good reason to believe that they are infected. Green band is not simply putting your hand up to get sick. It is about being able to mix freely and taking a certain level of risk. But it is also about treating others with respect. If you have the virus or have good reason to believe you have then it is irresponsible to make others sick. At that stage, whether red or green, you should wait until you are better before you start mixing with other people.

Some parts of the world have come out of lockdown. So is it too late for greenbandredband there?

Hopefully yes! It would be great if the problems caused by the virus are in the past. But in fact the easing of lockdown and the 'new normal' of social distancing appears to be a slow and controversial process, and is beset with warnings of possible tightening of restrictions in the future. In many regions lockdowns have been re-introduced on local or national levels. The greenbandredband system is specifically designed to help people address the problems of distancing so unfortunately it seems like greenbandredband may be relevant for some time.

If the rules for red banders are the default due to the law in my country and because green banders have to respect red banders’ right to distance, why do I need to show that I am red?

Clarity. Otherwise people can't be sure what you think. And because as restrictions become more targeted it could be a very useful tool for governments to allow everyone to take a position which is based on individual risk assessment and comfortable for each individual.

I would assess my own risk as being low and I would like to mix with friends but I live with someone who is high risk or who has chosen red band and I do not want to distance from them. What should I do?

It has to be a personal choice. There may be some groups of your friends whom you consider to be low risk (perhaps they are regularly testing negative). So you might be able to mix with them on a green band basis. But in general terms if you want to remain in close proximity to someone at higher risk then you will probably have to choose red band until their situation changes.

I would choose green but I still want to occasionally visit my elderly relatives who are red and are particularly vulnerable.

You might be best suited choosing green band for yourself but maintaining distance when visiting your relatives (as you would for any red bander). Another alternative would be to adopt red band for a period before visiting your relatives in order to minimise chances of picking up the virus. If a test is available for you then that may also give some assurance that you are not likely to infect them. Ultimately you will have to communicate openly with them to assess with them how best to manage the risk.

I am in a vulnerable group but I do not want to be locked down/isolated. Even though the consequences could be severe, can I choose green?

Yes. Every individual -whatever their age or risk profile - is free to make their own choices. You will no doubt want to consider the implications on health workers if there was a huge spike in cases, as would any other green bander.

Won't the health service be overwhelmed if enough people choose green band and then get sick enough to require hospitalisation? So by choosing green, wouldn't I still potentially be putting others at risk by contributing to an overwhelmed health service?

See also ‘Issues to Consider’. Each individual will have to assess the information available to decide if this is likely. The vast majority of hospitalised cases to date have been more elderly people or those with underlying health conditions. And it appears the majority of those infected may be mildly symptomatic or entirely asymptomatic. With an increased health service capacity in many regions compared to the beginning of the crisis and a willingness to protect those who want protection, it may be that the chances of the health service being overwhelmed in your region is now low. However, being young/healthy is not a guarantee. And even if the percentage of younger healthy people admitted to hospital is low, over the entire population, it could still be a very large number. And it is not known how the virus will mutate over time or whether it will start to affect previously low risk groups. Overall, much will depend on how much health service capacity exists, what your individual risk profile is and how quickly green band is adopted by how many people. These factors should be kept under constant review and people should be prepared to change their position as developments occur.

Is this a route to herd immunity?

See also ‘Issues to Consider’. At the moment there are too many uncertainties about the virus to know for sure whether herd immunity is viable. If herd immunity can be achieved then a high number of green banders would presumably speed up that process.

Should I choose a colour for my child?

You should choose a band, but which depends on your risk profile. It is clear that extremely few children display anything more than mild symptoms of the virus. So in respect of their own health, the overwhelming majority of children will be extremely low risk. But it is not clear yet whether children pass the virus onto each other or to adults. If you believe that they do then your risk choices for your child are likely to reflect the risk choices of the household that they live in, including how often they are in contact with higher risk groups e.g. grandparents.

How will a mixture of red band and green band work at school or in the workplace?

As things stand, the majority of schools and workplaces are or will be attempting to use some form of social distancing, or where actual distance is not possible, they are using other measures to try and mitigate the risk. These measures can be maintained to cater for red banders as long as necessary. However for green banders mixing with other green banders schools and workplaces will be able to relax measures.

Will this lead to a two-tier society?

The aim is for us to be able to use greenbandredband as a way of living together despite our differences rather than living apart because of them. It should enable people rather than restrict them. At the moment, most businesses are required to operate on red band principles. To the extent businesses choose to continue with current measures, green banders wishing to use those businesses will do so on red band principles. But many businesses will be able to offer a choice. Imagine a cinema with red band and green band screens. The red band screens would have much reduced capacity compared to the green band screens. Perhaps this would impact on price of tickets. There may be common areas (e.g. popcorn/ticket sales) which serve everyone. Those areas would be operated on red band principles.

Isn’t wearing a marker an uncomfortable reminder of some terrible times in history?

It is understandable that some would feel that way. But there are some crucial differences. No group is being singled out on the basis of ethnicity or other characteristic. No discrimination is taking place. In some ways it is more akin to displaying an affiliation to a political party except that this is an apolitical choice. It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself left, right, centre or none of those. And perhaps most importantly, by using greenbandredband people are being encouraged to respect each other. Can you think of a better way for us to help each other out of lockdown?

I'm OK with a very cautious unlocking of society but I feel like having lots of green band people would increase the risk to me really quickly.

Perfectly understandable. Society has had to go through some big changes very quickly and more changes are happening now. Every society wishing to unlock faces the potential challenge of increasing case numbers. As things stand these changes are often managed with confusing and frequently changing rules and guidance. With greenbandredband the protection measures are much clearer for everyone. So although the case numbers in society may increase as more people mix, this need not mean an increased level of suffering or risk. This system will allow us all to better communicate what we are comfortable with so that others can respect that.

I believe the detrimental effects of lockdown and distancing far outweigh any possible benefits. Won’t this system slow down our rate of returning to how things used to be?

Perhaps. But this is still a new disease. None of us can reliably predict what will be happening in a few months. At the moment much of the world appears to have accepted that it will be difficult to make a quick return to ‘old normal’, if indeed this is possible at all. The greenbandredband approach will allow people who want to quickly regain their former freedom the best chance of doing so, but not at the expense of those who are more cautious.

Shouldn't we be aiming to completely eliminate the virus?

Total elimination of the virus would be great, but not everyone agrees that it is really achievable. Some countries have managed to suppress cases to close to zero for a period and then seen another rise. If suppression to zero requires prolonged periods of lockdown and restrictive measures then many question whether the pain of achieving total suppression outweighs the benefit of reaching the zero goal. See a more in depth discussion in the British Medical Journal Visit discussion here.

How can I spread the word?

Display the logos. Beyond that, any way you can. Phone, messaging, social media, face to face or remote conversations. Try including #greenband, #redband or #greenbandredband in social media posts.

Issues to consider

Your own health – if you are a younger person with no underlying health issues your risk of death from COVID-19 is very low. The risk of getting sick enough to require hospitalisation is higher but still very low. Indeed it seems that the majority of people infected are either mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. However, the risk of severe illness/death increases dramatically for older groups and those with certain underlying health conditions. It also seems that your inherited genetic make-up is likely to affect your susceptibility and more data is emerging all the time. So everyone has a different risk profile. Low risk suggests green band, high risk red band.

Other people’s health – Although it does not have a fatality rate as frightening as many other diseases, one of the widely (but not universally) accepted features of this virus appears to be that it in the absence of controls, it spreads relatively quickly. This appears to be at least partly due to it being passed on by those who are not showing symptoms of infection themselves. That distinguishes it from many infections that we are used to dealing with, where the risk is more apparent and so can more easily be avoided. So the concern for many is not their own health, but the risk to the health of others, especially those who are in higher risk groups. Greenbandredband is an attempt to tackle this problem by respecting red banders’ right to distance. So the risk of passing on the virus is kept as low as possible for all red banders while green banders accept that they have a greater chance of getting infected because they have chosen to take that risk.

Overwhelmed health service – In the early stages of the disease, there was great concern that the health service in various countries would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Indeed this appears to have occurred in certain regions for a period of time and it remains a concern in certain areas. The implications of this would be an inability to treat patients with COVID-19 and an unpalatable need to select between patients on the basis of likely survival. Non COVID-19 services would effectively have to be shut down resulting in more suffering and death. This is an outcome that no-one would want and is an argument in favour of red band. However, in the course of fighting the virus, many regions increased their health service capacity to deal with this potential eventuality. And increasingly, data and information is emerging to help us identify the people most likely to be admitted to hospital (see above) and mistakes regarding protection of people in high risk communities e.g. care homes are being recognised. So the adoption of green band by people in low risk categories – coupled with a desire to protect those in higher risk categories by respecting red band distance – would appear to carry a far lower risk to the health service than might have been the case at the outset of the virus.

Health workers exposed to high viral load – In addition to concerns about the health service being overwhelmed, there is the direct impact on the health of health workers, who could face a constant exposure to high doses of the virus if substantial numbers of COVID-19 patients were hospitalised. The argument would therefore be that by choosing green band one is not just risking one’s own health, but also the health of those who would be asked to care for a green bander who got sick. Some green banders might well be prepared to eschew any right to hospital treatment for COVID-19 in return for a return to the ‘old normal’. This is something which some societies may consider, but in most regions access to health care is not generally linked to lifestyle choices so it can be assumed that green banders would have a legitimate expectation of receiving hospital treatment. Green banders should therefore consider the data and information that exists regarding rates of infection and consequences of infection for their risk profile and the state of their health service, taking into account that improved protective equipment may now be available to health service workers compared to the initial weeks of the virus.

Overwhelmed critical apparatus of society – This is a similar argument to the health service. If too many people become sick then parts of supply or delivery chains that are considered essential may fail. Green banders will have to consider the actual risks of that occurring in their particular region and what level of sickness would be required for failures of that nature to become a reality.

Vaccine or medicine intervening – At time of writing there is no vaccine against Coronavirus and no medicine with established efficacy. Certain vaccine trials have produced encouraging results, but despite the unparalleled resources being dedicated to finding a ‘cure’ there is no guarantee that the emerging vaccines will be effective to prevent the spread of the virus, or how long they will be effective for. There will also be a significant logistical challenge rolling it out across the world. It appears that most governments are unwilling to wait for a vaccine to attempt to emerge from full lockdown. Instead there is a worldwide attempt to maintain or restore some form of life as we knew it prior to COVID-19, but with conditions imposed to limit or entirely prevent its spread. Whichever band you choose, greenbandredband can help that process. If and when effective medicine or vaccination becomes available, then to the extent that distancing still exists, the hopefully reduced impact of the virus might alter your assessment of risk considerably, enabling many who would have been red band to transition over to green.

Herd immunity – This is the concept that if a large enough number of the population become infected, recover, then are immune going forward and their immunity prevents them spreading the virus, then the virus will be prevented from spreading because it will hit a block of immune people who do not pass it on and so it will be stopped. Mass vaccination programs essentially seek to achieve the same goal in a more controlled fashion. Those who support trying to achieve herd immunity (even without a vaccine) are more likely to accept getting infection and therefore more likely to choose green band. Herd immunity is a controversial topic with very different percentages of immune people put forward as being required. It also relies on (a) infection leading to immunity post recovery and (b) immunity leading to an inability to spread the virus. While both assumptions are reasonable – even likely – on the basis of how other viruses behave, the effect of recovering from infection by this virus is yet to be conclusively established, and question marks remain as to what level of protection would be retained against new forms of the virus (the same issues as with vaccines).

The Economy – It seems clear that the lockdowns across the world have had a severe effect on economies across the world and that the effect is likely to be long lasting. At time of writing the vast majority of countries are attempting to move out of lockdown and so are taking steps to kickstart their economies, while forms of distancing are maintained. Whichever band you choose, greenbandredband helps with the release of lockdown, allowing governments to tailor their approach to the differing views of their people and allowing people to operate with more certainty and freedom around each other. Clearly green band allows a faster return to pre-Coronavirus practices but this will not be acceptable for all.

Other health – While Coronavirus has been an all-consuming focus, it is clear that lockdown has had a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of large numbers of people. As explained above, greenbandredband provides a helpful way to navigate the process of easing restrictions. Even if hospitals are now able to help people with other physical health issues, continued distancing will still pose well-being issues for many. Adaptation to continued distancing would be particularly hard on children for instance or on those reliant on group or close contact activities for recreation. For those individuals or groups green band may be more appropriate.

Personal immunity – As more people realise that they have had the virus and recovered, or that they were asymptomatic, there is an increasingly important question as to how the bodies of those individuals would react to further exposure to the virus, and particularly whether they can be re-infected or spread the virus to others in the future. With many viral infections an immunity to further infection is acquired after recovery from the initial exposure and it is hoped that this is the case for Coronavirus as well but at this stage it is simply not known what level of immunity would result from the initial exposure/recovery or how long lasting any immunity would be. It also seems to be the case that new forms of the virus can emerge, which may mean that exposure to a previous strain does not offer full protection.

The role of face coverings – There are many different types of face covering, and potentially substantial differences between the effects of the different types in terms of filtration of viral particles. The cloth mask, which covers the nose and mouth, and can be purchased or made at home, is the most common of these. Generally a multi-layer mask is recommended for superior filtration. These types of masks are still unlikely to offer the same level of filtration as higher grade medical masks. Many regions have recommended or mandated the use of the more available types of face covering for the public in certain circumstances or areas. As with much of the Coronavirus science, there are widely differing views as to the effectiveness of these face coverings. Those who advocate their use, generally do so primarily to reduce the risk of transmission from the wearer. So it is seen as a means of protecting others more than oneself, although to to the extent viral load for the wearer is reduced, some protection for the wearer may also exist. The majority of public health advice remains that distancing is a superior protection against large droplet transmission than a face covering. However, where distancing is impractical, many regions are recommending or mandating face coverings as a means of mitigating the increased risk of transmission due to lack of distance. Other regions have recommended or mandated face coverings as a means of reducing transmission by aerosolised particles. This has lead to rules requiring the use of face coverings in certain places, even where distance can be maintained. Green band wearers will need to consider how to best mitigate the risk of aerosol transmission when respecting the wishes of red banders in each context.