The government must be straight with the public that there can be no single grand exit plan to release the coronavirus lockdown. Any easing of restrictions will need to evolve in response to new evidence from the UK and abroad.
This report warns that the government’s five tests for starting to lift the lockdown are not a good enough guide to the longer-term exit strategy.
The government must instead set out new tests which explain how it will balance economic and health concerns against each other in lifting the restrictions.
Current restrictions, which apply more or less uniformly across the UK, have still led to misunderstandings. There is a risk of increased confusion if these restrictions are lifted at different times for different groups, or in different areas of the country. However, the government should still examine whether variation like this would be valuable.
The prime minister will need to explain whatever changes his government makes to the measures – clearly and repeatedly – and the trade-offs and thinking behind them. The government may need to adapt its strategy if it loses public support, and it cannot afford to let policy decisions race ahead of its ability to deliver results. This would erode public confidence and consent.
The paper also recommends:
- Providing enough capacity to test those who might be infected and trace anyone with whom they have come into contact, to ensure the disease can be contained even as restrictions are lifted.
- Lifting restrictions first for those businesses that are best able to implement social distancing in the workplace and for those sectors where the longer-term harms from the shutdown are likely to be most severe.
- Introducing encouragement and incentives, such as tax incentives or reducing support for furloughed workers, to bring people and businesses out of lockdown.