Support 100 years of independent journalism.

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.

By Stephen Bush

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

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.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

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.