The Prime Minister is expected to deliver an address to the nation on Sunday 10 May in which he intends to unveil a “roadmap” setting out how he intends to “unlock the various parts of the UK economy”.
Boris Johnson’s roadmap is likely to be laced with measures intended to instill confidence in the public that they can, and their children can, feel safe to emerge from their homes again when they are invited to so.
As he indicated last week, this is likely to include the use of face coverings, despite limited evidence of their use in spreading infection.
Many of the measures will be intended to encourage those already permitted to work to return to construction sites and factories in the knowledge that they would do so under strict guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.
Mr Johnson is also expected to announce plans to re-open more public spaces, such as parks, with social distancing in place, to help ensure that those under lockdown have sufficient opportunities to exercise.
And schools are expected to start returning to some sort of normality as early as June 1 as Britain rises to its feet again.
Roadmap out of lockdown
Boris Johnson will outline his “roadmap” for exiting the coronavirus lockdown next week after declaring that Britain is “past the peak and on the downward slope”.
The Prime Minister said he would make clear to the nation the “menu of options” he will have to choose from when he eventually decides to begin lifting the current restrictions.
He said it was still too early to say when there would be any easing of social distancing measures but that plans were in place to restart the economy, reopen schools and enable people to travel to work safely.
He also revealed that part of that plan would be for people to wear face masks to give them “confidence that they can go back to work”.
For the first time, the Prime Minister said the transmission rate – the “R” number – was below one for the whole country, meaning the virus was in retreat nationwide.
But he said he could only “unlock the economy gradually” because it was vital nothing was done that would reverse the hard-won gains of the nation’s “effort and sacrifice”.
He said: “We have come through the peak, or rather we’ve come under what could have been a vast peak as though we’ve been going through some huge alpine tunnel and we can now see the sunlight and pasture ahead of us.
“And so it is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second and even bigger mountain.”
The UK’s coronavirus epidemic peaked around April 8 and in recent weeks there has been an overall decline in admissions to hospital, the number of people in intensive care, and deaths.
But will that mean an end to social distancing, or could we be facing a lockdown until the end of the year?
Ahead of Mr Johnson’s speech, here are the four potential strategies for leaving the lockdown.
Intermittent social distancing
Allow the healthy and immune out
Seek and destroy
Wait for vaccine or treatment
Read the pros and cons of each strategy here.
The five pillars
During a Downing Street press conference on 16 April, Dominic Raab, deputising at the time for Boris Johnson, said that the lockdown measures will remain in place for at least three more weeks, or up until May 7th.
He also set out five tests that must be met before the government would consider lifting measures.
Evidence that the NHS can cope across the UK
A sustained fall in daily death rates
Evidence that the rate of infection is decreasing
Confidence that supplies of testing and PPE are able to meet demand
No risk of a second peak
The Prime Minister placed an emphasis on the need to “fire up the engines of this vast UK economy” when he last addressed the nation having returned to work.
It is likely to form a prominent part of his speech this time around too.
The Treasury and business department have been in talks with firms about drawing up guidelines laying out how workplaces can operate safely, with proposed measures including wider walkways on building sites and the provision of hand sanitiser dispensers.
Office workers who can work from home are expected to be asked to continue doing so for the time being.
It will be recommended that offices are recalibrated to allow for social distancing – with screens and barriers erected to protect people working side-by-side.
Meetings will be advised to take place remotely wherever possible and employers will be encouraged to provide hand sanitiser and properly ventilate buildings.
Ideas to help kickstart the country’s economy include staggered start times in offices and factories, and delayed lunch hours to limit the likelihood of overcrowding among workers in town centres.
One source with knowledge of the plans said it amounted to “the death of the rush hour”.
Companies will be encouraged to set up ways to take temperatures and testing facilities for Covid-19, with the instructions to send anyone home immediately who tests positive.
Companies will also be expected to make more use of the videoconferencing technology that has been used being used in the lockdown has been part of the conversation of how to exit it.
Primary schools are due to reopen as soon as June 1, as part of Boris Johnson’s blueprint for gradually “unlocking” Britain, The Telegraph can disclose.
The Prime Minister is expected to unveil the plans as part of the Government’s “roadmap” out of the coronavirus lockdown in an address to the nation next Sunday, after ministers take stock of a study showing the rate of the virus’s transmission in the UK.
Based on the current, reduced infection rate, Mr Johnson is hoping to put teachers on three weeks’ notice to reopen primary schools in England to all pupils on June 1, Whitehall sources said.
Year 10 and Year 12 pupils are then expected to form the first wave of secondary pupils returning to school at a later point.
People will be advised to wear face masks to encourage them to work after the coronavirus crisis, Boris Johnson announced last week.
The Prime Minister said in an apparent off the cuff remark that wearing face coverings for returning staff to workplaces would give them “confidence” that they do not risk catching coronavirus.
The comments appeared to catch the Government off guard as officials had insisted earlier that there would be no announcement on face coverings.
So it remains to be seen if face masks will be mentioned in his address.
The Government’s scientific advisory group – know as “Sage” – put in a report to ministers on the wearing of masks last week, but Number 10 had insisted yesterday lunchtime that no decision was imminent.
However responding to a question from a journalist at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: “What I think Sage is saying – and what I certainly agree with – is that, as part of coming out of the lockdown, I do think that face coverings will be useful, both for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work. You will be hearing more about that kind of thing next week.”
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London who chairs Transport for London which runs the London Underground, said: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said that non-medical face coverings will play an important role as we eventually look to lift lockdown restrictions.
“This is something I and others have been pushing the Government to change the guidance on.”
One sticking point on lifting the lockdown will be public transport.
With people beginning to return to work – Mr Johnson will not want to see the network become a cesspit for spreading infection.
To that end, one-way systems could be introduced at train stations to help people use public transport again after lockdown measures are lifted, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed.
Hand sanitiser on trains and two metre markers on platforms are also among the ideas being considered by ministers to get the country moving again.
Mr Shapps told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I am very concerned about people being able to wash their hands, that’s still by far the most important advice, above anything else, even above face masks and the rest of it. The basic hygiene, the hand washing.
“We can help with that by trying to have hand sanitiser, one way systems, spacing on platforms and bus stops and that sort of thing, clearly marked out.”
Forcing passengers to sit apart from each other has also been floating around as a possible solution.
Mr Johnson is expected to issue more guidance on face coverings after a survey by the rail and road watchdog, Transport Focus, found that more than half of commuters (51 per cent) would not be happy using trains and buses again unless the Government mandated the wearing of face masks.
In a poll of 2,000 passengers, carried out earlier this month, 83 per cent of passengers said they also wanted hand sanitiser made available on vehicles as well as train stations and bus stops, and 62 percent said they would not venture back onto public transport unless effective social-distancing measures are in place.
The reproductive value, or “R0 “, pronounced ‘R nought’ or ‘R zero’, tracks how many people, on average, will be infected for every one person who has the disease.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson said “driving down the R” is the country’s “collective endeavour”. So it is likely to be mentioned again.
Since the lockdown, scientists in the UK estimate that the UK’s reproduction value has dipped below one, and probably stands at around 0.7.
This is key, because getting it below one is one of the government’s five key tests for relaxing the lockdown.
It means that every infected individual will pass the disease on to less than one other person, which ultimately means the epidemic dies out.
When is it and how can I watch it?
It has not been disclosed what time the address will be – all we know at the moment is that it will be on Sunday.
You will be able to watch it live on the Telegraph’s website – so bookmark this page and it’ll take you directly to the video stream.
Alternatively, it will be shown live on Sky News, BBC and will be broadcast on the radio.
The coronavirus addresses
An address to the nation is usually a rare thing.
We have had three in six weeks.
First was Boris Johnson’s speech on March 23 – announcing that the UK would be plunged into lockdown.
Read the Prime Minister’s speech in full below.
Then it was the Queen’s turn to address the nation – just her fourth in a time of crisis or grief. In 1991 about the Gulf War, in 1997 after the death of Princess Diana and in 2002 after the death of the Queen Mother.
Her Majesty also thanked the nation in 2012 for the diamond jubilee celebrations. But in 2020, she channelled Dame Vera Lynn, to tell the United Kingdom that “we will meet again”.
The monarch’s speech corresponded with Boris Johnson being moved to intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster as he battled coronavirus.
When he returned to work, he talked directly to the nation from outside 10 Downing Street.