From schools to shops, with jobs at risk, the government must balance the interests of economy and public safety
As the prime minister, Boris Johnson, heads back to Downing Street, he faces calls from Labour to be clearer about how Britain might start lifting the coronavirus lockdown, now entering its fifth week. On Sunday, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, warned the outbreak remained at a “delicate and dangerous” stage and said it was irresponsible to speculate about steps to modify the rules underpinning government’s “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” strategy.
More than 20,000 people have died from Covid-19 in NHS hospitals and thousands more in care homes. But there are growing concerns about the economic impact of lockdown. Gerard Lyons, Johnson’s economics adviser when he was London mayor, warned on Sunday the UK could be the hardest-hit western economy if it does not unlock soon. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, also called on ministers to start talking to teachers, businesses, trade unions and town hall leaders and open “honest conversations with the public about what new arrangements might look like”. Unions insist worker safety must not be compromised by any changes and questions remain about public appetite for risking a new peak of contagion, but plans to modify restrictions are starting to emerge.