What did we learn from the government’s coronavirus action plan?

The biggest peacetime operation in the United Kingdom in living memory is now underway.

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The British government has just published its coronavirus action plan: detailing both its immediate plans and its preparations for the worst-case scenario.

The government has a three-stage plan: 

1) Containment: to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

2) Delay: if containment fails, to try and delay widespread infection until after the end of the flu season, when the pressure on the NHS will be lower.

3) And, if delay also fails, Mitigation: to tackle the consequences of the worst-case scenario, which could see a fifth of British people off sick.

The containment stage – that's where we are now – could see the closing down of other government services to help contain. That has two aspects: the shutting down of individual schools and workplaces to prevent further infection and the shutting down of government services to redirect resources elsewhere.

The biggest peacetime operation in the United Kingdom in living memory is now underway. One way or another, the economic and political consequences are likely to be with us for a long time, even if the government's Plan A – containment – does succeed.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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