Boris Johnson’s five tests ‘not a good enough basis for lockdown exit strategy’ | World news

Boris Johnson’s five tests for starting a relaxation of the lockdown are “not a good enough guide” for a long-term exit strategy, a thinktank has said.

In a new paper, Lifting the Lockdown: How to Approach a Coronavirus Exit Strategy, the Institute for Government (IfG) says what was good at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak is not necessarily good for the end.

“How to ease the coronavirus lockdown will require Boris Johnson to make some of the toughest choices to have faced any prime minister,” said Joe Owen, one of the report’s authors.

“There can be no grand plan for exit, only a process of edging forward. The government’s approach will have to evolve to take account of the best evidence, but these will be overwhelmingly political choices – and the government will need to be straight with the British people about the steps that will be taken in the months ahead.”

The government has set out five tests for starting to lift the lockdown, which look for: signs that the NHS is able to cope, a stage which it believes has been reached; that it has sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE); a “sustained and consistent” fall in the daily death rate ; reliable data on decreasing infection rates; and signs that the risk of a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS can be avoided.

But the IfG says that while these tests might be appropriate measures of bringing a pandemic under control, they are not the basis for a long-term exit strategy, which it says must be based on a different approach, ensuring measures are put in place “that reduce the risk of resurgence of the disease” and give the economy a chance to function.

This means increasing the capacity for testing and contact tracing and considering tighter border controls to stop fresh importation of the virus.

The IfG says the next phase will involve walking the tightrope between guarding the nation’s health and reopening businesses, schools and services, and warns against “keeping the economy on ice”.

Transparency and detailed communications, not just with the public but with employers, councils and devolved governments, will be key, it says, and the strategy on communications may need to change over time.

It also warns the government to pay attention to continued public consent in a world where the impact of the lockdown has “not been evenly spread”: some in non-essential hospitality or retail and aviation have or will lose their jobs and fear for their future, but others, for example in financial services, seem to be unaffected. Young workers, low earners and women are more likely to work in one of the sectors hardest hit by the shutdown.

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