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30 April 2020

Boris Johnson commits to an exit strategy, but normality is some way off

The government's aim means that social distancing will be with us for a long time.

By Stephen Bush

The British government will publish its strategy for leaving the lockdown in England next week, Boris Johnson has announced.

The government is now confident that the rate of reproduction, known as R, and meaning the number of people infected by each individual with coronavirus is now below one. As Tony Yates puts it, among human beings, R is at one when a couple has two or more children: any fewer than that and the overall size of the population will decline and eventually die out.

Keeping the rate of R below one prevents another peak in coronavirus cases and prevents the NHS being overwhelmed. But there is, at present, no reliable way to do that other than to maintain a fairly strict degree of social distancing: so while the current restrictions may be loosened, the government’s road map will not be a road to normality or anything like that.

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