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.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. 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. 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.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.