OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

The UK Government have released a three phase COVID-19 recovery strategy (11.05.2020).

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.

The paragraphs below summarise the next phases - for full details please read the whole report.

Phase two: smarter controls

Throughout this phase, people will need to minimise the spread of the disease through continuing good hygiene practices: hand washing, social distancing and regular disinfecting of surfaces touched by others. These will be in place for some time. The number of social contacts people make each day must continue to be limited, the exposure of vulnerable groups must continue to be reduced from normal levels, and symptomatic and diagnosed individuals will still need to isolate.

Developing smarter social distancing measures will mean the Government needs to balance increasing contacts as it relaxes the most disruptive measures with introducing new measures to manage risk, for example by tightening other measures.

Phase three: reliable treatment

Humanity has proved highly effective at finding medical countermeasures to infectious diseases, and is likely to do so for COVID-19; but this may take time. As quickly as possible, the Government must move to a more sustainable solution, where the continued restrictions described above can be lifted altogether.

To enable this, the Government must develop, trial, manufacture and distribute reliable treatments or vaccines as swiftly as possible. The virus is unlikely to die out spontaneously; nor is it likely to be eradicated. Only one human infectious disease - smallpox - has ever been eradicated.

The Government must therefore develop either a treatment that enables us to manage it like other serious diseases or have people acquire immunity by vaccination. It is possible a safe and effective vaccine will not be developed for a long time (or even ever), so while maximising the chances this will happen quickly where the Government can, it must not rely on this course of action happening. There are currently over 70 credible vaccine development programmes worldwide and the first UK human trial has begun at the University of Oxford.

Even if it is not possible to develop an effective vaccine, it may be possible to develop drug treatments to reduce the impact of contracting COVID-19, as has been done for many other infectious diseases, ranging from other pneumonias and herpes infections, to HIV and malaria.