How the lockdown could be modified

1 May 2020

4:35 PM

1 May 2020

4:35 PM

We’ll get a fairly detailed plan from the PM next week encouraging businesses to start operating again, public transport to increase its shrunken capacity, and children to return to school. But there’ll be no firm date for any of that to happen – only a condition that even such modest returns to normal life must not risk a dangerous resumption of rapid viral spread.

The transport and schools stuff is hardest, because social distancing on a train or on the London Underground is not going to be easy to organise, and keeping young children far enough apart to prevent infection will also be tricky.

But maybe employees will be encouraged back to work at the end of May, once businesses have redesigned their workplaces to keep staff at a safe difference from each other and to facilitate hand-washing and sanitising. Businesses will need a few weeks to reconfigure offices and factories for safer socially distanced work.

Probably teenage children will be encouraged in just a few weeks to go into school once or twice a week to pick up work and projects they can do at home. No school resumption is likely to happen until after the half-term holiday at the end of May.

All that said, there may be a couple of lockdown modifications next week. There may be a push to encourage more outdoor construction to resume. And the precept that we should only go to the park or exercise once a day may be scrapped, because it is believed that viral transmission happens much less outdoors than in enclosed spaces.

There is hope (but no more than that) that the new testing, tracking and tracing system will be able to pick up and suppress any localised increases in infection rates.

The prime minister wants to modify the lockdown only slowly and cautiously because he does not want to risk a second nationwide surge of viral transmission – partly because he fears we the British people will be less obedient and compliant if a second severe lockdown is ordered.

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