Covid-19: What is the UK’s exit strategy from lockdown?

Thoughts are turning to how the UK will end its period of lockdown and start the transition back to normal life.

What is the UK's exit strategy?

No precise exit strategy has yet been formed, though Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College, who is advising the Government, said experts are looking at it in detail this week.

Ending the lockdown will rely on a substantial slowdown in the epidemic of Covid-19 – the so-called "flattening the curve" – and a downward trend, which has not yet happened in the UK.

The number of deaths is also still rising as the UK moves towards the peak of its epidemic, which is expected within the next week to 10 days.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Will the virus come back?

The virus is still out there. Just letting people resume their normal lives all at once will undoubtedly lead to a second wave of coronavirus cases and the re-introduction of severe restrictions.

So, the aim is to gradually lift the lid on controls while watching what happens with the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

If cases can be kept to a lower level – and the NHS can cope with them – then restrictions may slowly be lifted.

This could include a series of "short releases", such as lifting controls by region or by asking vulnerable people and those most at risk to continue staying at home.

It could involve schools reopening or some businesses being allowed to open their doors.

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Social distancing and sunshine in the UK
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Social distancing and sunshine in the UK
Police move on sunbathers in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A police officer speaks with a member of the public while patrolling Hove Promenade on the seafront in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
Hancock warns minority flouting rules: Change behaviour to end lockdown faster
Hove Promenade at midday in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
Beach patrol speak with a member of the public while patrolling the seafront in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
The majority of shops are closed on Western Road in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
General view of a quiet Brighton beach at midday in Brighton, East Sussex, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Coronavirus.
RETRANSMITED WITH ADDITIONAL CAPTION INFORMATION People using safe-distancing measures as they walk along Clopton Bridge in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A Police community support officer patrols Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People buy ice creams on Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public sunbathe in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public relax in the sun in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public relax in the sun in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A near-deserted Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public relax in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A group of cyclists relax in the sun in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Members of the public cycle round Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police patrol the promenade at Hunstanton beach in Norfolk, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A person makes their way past a sign asking people to stay 2 metres apart on Brighton sea front, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People exercising in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A 'Please stay 2 metres apart' sign on Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A Police community support officer chats with a member of the public on Brighton beach, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People exercise along Brighton sea front, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A police officer patrols Brighton sea front, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A jogger runs past the upside down house on Brighton sea front, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A jogger runs past a sign asking people to stay two metres apart on Brighton sea front, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
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What about testing?

Experts agree that much more testing is needed to get the UK out of lockdown.

At present, the UK has no real grip on how many people are currently infected and what proportion may already be immune to the disease.

The great hope is that an antibody test will soon prove reliable enough to be sold on the high street so that those people who have had the virus can resume normal life.

But these tests have produced poor results so far, and none have been deemed good enough for widespread use by Public Health England (PHE).

Once the virus is circulating at a low level, experts also hope to return to contact tracing in the hope of controlling future outbreaks.

This involves isolating individuals who have been infected, contact tracing all the people they have been in touch with and stopping the chain of transmission.

Are we close to getting a vaccine?

At best, most scientists think it will be 12 months before there is a vaccine to protect against coronavirus.

Many agree that people cannot be expected to stay indoors for that long.

So the hope is that, until a vaccine is available, some existing drugs could be re-purposed to help reduce the severity of the illness.

Another option is looking to herd immunity – where so many people have already been infected with Covid-19 that the virus struggles to spread.

While the Government insists this is not a policy aim, over time it may just become a reality.

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