Tony Blair's think tank urges Ministers to layout lockdown exit plans

6 May 2020, 08:44

The former prime minister's think tank has called for the Government to clarify the easing of restrictions
The former prime minister's think tank has called for the Government to clarify the easing of restrictions. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Government must establish a clear patch out of the lockdown as the public need to "be able to look to the future", according to Tony Blair's think tank.

The Tony Blair Institute has called on ministers to outline a clear strategy out of the coronavirus lockdown or risk even more economic carnage, urging the government to follow approaches taken by Australia and New Zealand.

The former prime minister's thinktank said "pervasive uncertainty is almost as damaging as the lockdown itself" and stated that businesses needed clear, detailed exit plans in place, to "understand their likely operating environment over the months ahead" in order to plan how to reopen.

It added: "People need to be able to look to the future and make plans for things like visiting friends and family, changing jobs, moving house or having children."

Read more: Chancellor preparing to 'wean' businesses off coronavirus furlough scheme

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As we reported previously, Prime Minister is set to make a speech on Sunday laying out his Government's roadmap to exiting the coronavirus lockdown and restarting the economy.

The Cabinet will review the lockdown restriction on Thursday, three weeks after they were extended.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also lining up a mass track-and-trace programme, with the aid of an NHS symptoms app and a team of at least 18,000 tracers, in a bid to contain the virus when strict restrictions on movement are lifted.

A track-and-trace pilot is currently being tested on the Isle of Wight.

And in her latest press briefing, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said allowing some children to return to schools, relaxing rules on daily exercise and meeting friends were among the options being considered for easing the lockdown.

The Tony Blair Institute has recommended the UK Government now go further and set out a detailed plan of the phases involved in releasing the lockdown and the measurements it will use for deciding when to progress between each stage.

The report calls for ministers to:

- Set out the levels of easing they will use and what they will mean for people and business.

- Build on the current five tests with "triggers, hard metrics and thresholds" to move between levels.

- Explain how expanded containment measures can reduce the risk at each level.

- Tailor communications to enlist the support of individuals and businesses.

Ian Mulheirn, executive director at the Tony Blair Institute, said the Government should provide the public with "some sense of what the new normal will be like".

"The lockdown has saved many lives and is the only measure so far that has controlled the spread of the virus," said the chief economist.

"But the economic, social and other health consequences of suppression are severe.

"The UK needs a sustainable 'roadmap to exit' that allows people and businesses to plan ahead and to live with the disease, including preparing for future outbreaks.

"One thing that is certain is that we face uncertainty for many months to come. That uncertainty is almost as bad as the lockdown itself, exacerbating the personal and economic toll.

"But the Government can help people manage that by setting out a comprehensive, detailed roadmap, drawing on lessons from around the world, as we set out in our framework.

"Such a plan will allow the public and businesses to look to the future with some sense of what the new normal will be like."

The report flags examples from countries across the world, including in New Zealand where there are four stages of alert, ranging from "prepare" to "lockdown", while Austria has a three-phase reopening planned, structured by business type, size and date.

Any measurements for lifting the lockdown in stages in the UK must ensure that the NHS can cope with any demand that additional Covid-19 infections would place on it, with a "sustained and consistent" fall in the death rate seen at the same time, said the report authors.

The rate of infection should slip to a "manageable level", tests and personal protective equipment must be able to meet demand, while any adjustments made should not lead to a second peak, the report added.