Back in March as SARS-CoV-2 was integrating itself into the population of the UK, we – a couple of anthropologists – put our heads together to evaluate the situation. After briefly sketching out the possible scenarios that could emerge in the UK in response to SARS-CoV-2, it became immediately clear there was a short-term and a long-term challenge. The long-term challenge remains, addressing the conditions that nurture novel zoonosis. Unfortunately, the UK government is pushing through a version of the new Agricultural Bill that will worsen these conditions.
But here we are interested in the immediate challenge the UK faced earlier this year. A challenge that oddly persists. This was the bottle-neck issue of delivering effective mass testing in the UK. In early 2020, the UK government ignored calls to focus on testing. Since then the government has belatedly recognised its folly but is still incapable of addressing it. This begs the question: If our government were overwhelmed by its job, bar somehow inspiring an outright combative revolution in the UK, what could we as individuals, communities, organisations, and businesses do to deliver mass testing anyway? If we couldn’t rely on the government, how could we get the tools of testing into the hands of empowered communities anyway?