Summary of the the Government's recovery strategy

The Government's aim at the centre of this plan is to:

return to life as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible....

...in a way that avoids a new epidemic, minimises lives lost and maximises health, economic and social outcomes.

1.2 Moving to the next phase

On 16 April the Government presented five tests for easing

measures. These are:

  • Protect the NHS's ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.
  • See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.
  • Reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
  • Be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity andPPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.
  • Be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS.

1.3 The challenges ahead

As the Government moves into the next phase of its response to the virus, it is important to be clear

about the challenges that the UK, in common with other countries around the world, is now facing.

*This is not a short-term crisis. It is likely that COVID-19 will circulate in the human population long-term, possibly causing periodic epidemics. In the near future, large epidemic waves cannot be excluded without continuing some measures.

*In the near term, we cannot afford to make drastic changes. To successfully keep R below 1, we have little room for manoeuvre. SAGE modelling suggests that either fully opening schools or relaxing all social distancing measures now, will lead to a resurgence of the virus and a second wave that could be larger than the first.

*There is no easy or quick solution. Only the development of a vaccine or effective drugs can reliably control this epidemic and reduce mortality without some form of social distancing or contact tracing in place.

*The country must get the number of new cases down. Holding R below 1 will reduce the number of new cases down to a level that allows for the effective tracing of new cases; this in turn, will enable the total number of daily transmissions to be held at a low level.

*The world's scientific understanding of the virus is still developing rapidly. We are still learning about who is at greatest personal risk and how the virus is spread. It is not possible to know with precision the relative efficacy of specific shielding and suppression measures; nor how many people in the population are or have been infected asymptomatically.

*The virus' spread is difficult to detect. Some people carry the disease asymptomatically, which may mean that they can spread the virus without knowing that they are infectious. Those who do develop symptoms often do not show signs of being infected for around five days; a significant proportion of infections take place in this time, particularly in the two days before symptoms start. Even those who are not at risk of significant harm themselves may pose a real risk of inadvertently infecting others. This is why a significant part of the next phase of the Government's response will be to improve its monitoring of and response to new infections.

* The plan depends on continued widespread compliance. So far people have adhered to the measures well. However, to avoid R tipping above 1 and the epidemic increasing in an uncontrolled manner, very high continued levels of compliance are essential. The risk is an unbalanced one; if the UK tips back into an exponential increase in the spread of the infection, it could quickly get out of control.

3.Our approach: a phased recovery

As the UK exits phase one of the Government's response, where the Government has sought to contain, delay, research and mitigate, it will move through two further phases.

Phase two: Smarter controls

Until the UK can reach phase three, the Government will gradually replace the existing social restrictions with smarter measures that balance its aims as effectively as possible. Contact will be made less infectious by:

  • making such contact safer (including by redesigning public and work spaces, and those with symptoms self-isolating) to reduce the chance of infection per contact;
  • reducing infected people's social contact by using testing, tracing and monitoring of the infection to better focus restrictions according to risk; and
  • stopping hotspots developing by detecting infection outbreaks at a more localised level and rapidly intervening with targeted measures. In the near term, the degree of social contact within the population continues to serve as a proxy for the transmission of the virus; the fewer contacts, the lower the risk.

The Government will enact measures that have the largest effect on controlling the epidemic but the lowest health, economic and social costs.

These will be developed and announced in periodic 'steps' over the coming weeks and months, seeking to maximise the pace at which restrictions are lifted, but with strict conditions to move from each step to the next. The Government will maintain options to react to a rise in transmissions, including by re-imposing restrictions if required.

Figure 6: Steps of adjustment to current social distancing measures - As the caseload falls, different steps can be taken to adjust social distancing measures.

Phase three: Reliable treatment

Eradication of the virus from the UK (and globally) is very unlikely. But rolling out effective treatments and/or a vaccine will allow us to move to a phase where the effect of the virus can be reduced to manageable levels.

To bring about this phase as quickly as possible, the Government is investing in research, developing international partnerships and putting in place the infrastructure to manufacture and distribute treatments and/or a vaccine at scale.

Annex A: Staying safe outside your home

This guidance sets out the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent with others outside your homes is as safe as possible (unless you are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable in which case you should follow separate advice on GOV.UK). It is your responsibility to adopt these principles wherever possible. The Government is also using these principles as the basis of discussions with businesses, unions, local government and many other stakeholders to agree how they should apply in different settings to make them safer. All of us, as customers, visitors, employees or employers, need to make changes to lower the risk of transmission of the virus. The Government has consulted with its scientific advisers to establish the principles that will determine these changes.

Keep your distance from people outside your household, recognising this will not always be possible. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street. Public Health England recommends trying to keep 2m away from people as a precaution. However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can.

Keep your hands and face as clean as possible. Wash your hands often using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Use sanitiser where available outside your home, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Avoid touching your face.

Avoid being face to face with people if they are outside your household. You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets released by someone talking or coughing when you are within 2m of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing people.

Reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting where you can. You can lower the risks of transmission in the workplace by reducing the number of people you come into contact with regularly, which your employer can support where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to match you with the same team each time and splitting people into smaller, contained teams.

Avoid crowds. You can lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with, so avoid peak travel times on public transport where possible, for example. Businesses should take reasonable steps to avoid people being gathered together, for example by allowing the use of more entrances and exits and staggering entry and exit where possible.

If you have to travel (to work or school, for example) think about how and when you travel.

To reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible. If you have to use public transport, you should try and avoid peak times. Employers should consider staggering working hours and expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking to help.

Wash your clothes regularly. There is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, although usually it is shorter, so if you are working with people outside your household wash your clothes regularly. Changing clothes in workplaces should only normally be considered where there is a high risk of infection or there are highly vulnerable people, such as in a care home. If you need to change your clothes avoid crowding into a changing room.

Keep indoor places well ventilated. Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors. In good weather, try to leave windows and doors open in places where people from different households come into contact - or move activity outdoors if you can. Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate. Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings.

Wear a face covering in an enclosed space at all times. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature) you and your household should isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this. A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these supplies should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions. It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

You can make face coverings at home; the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose. You can find guidance on how to do this on GOV.UK.

You should follow the advice given to you by your employer when at work. Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace. The Government has issued guidance to help them do this. This includes how to make adjustments to your workplace to help you maintain social distance. It also includes guidance on hygiene as evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Frequent cleaning is therefore particularly important for communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points. You can see the guidance on GOV.UK and can ask your employer if you have questions.