Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
7 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Evening summary: “Modest, small and incremental“ change – but change nonetheless

By Samuel Horti

The stage has been set for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lay out the government’s plan for leaving lockdown on Sunday evening, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was determined not to step on his toes at this afternoon’s Downing Street briefing. He tried to please everybody by saying not very much at all: the British people’s sacrifice meant changes to lockdown were coming, but they would be “modest, small and incremental”; some measures would be lifted “quicker than others”, but not so quick as to risk a devastating second peak, he said.

He left us none the wiser about what Johnson will say. More freedom for people to move outdoors seems, at the very least, likely. But the figures suggest the government has very little wiggle room. The crucial R value – the number of people someone with coronavirus goes on to infect – is somewhere between 0.5 and 0.9, and has actually risen in recent weeks because of epidemics in care homes and hospitals. Any higher than 1 could cause the virus to spread exponentially. “Incremental” seems like an understatement.

Sunday will undoubtedly be the defining moment of Johnson’s career. He will lay out the broad strokes of the government’s plan, but don’t be surprised if he leaves us with more questions than answers. Questions such as: “Will people who are told to self-isolate through the NHS contact tracing app be entitled to sick pay or compensation?”, which Raab dodged this afternoon. A rough outline for the months ahead will be welcome – but the devil will be in the detail.

You can watch Johnson’s speech at 7pm on Sunday. 

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. 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 weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy