What is the traffic light system for lifting lockdown measures?

It's important to remember that the system is not official government advice...
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  • The UK has been on lockdown now for over five weeks, and is set to be under the strictest restrictions until at least 7th May.

    However, the prolonged period of lockdown has led to many government officials calling for plans of an exit strategy to be revealed to the public.

    Many have pointed to the hugely detrimental impact on the economy of a country-wide shutdown, and the negative effect on mental health – despite recognising the need to protect the NHS and save lives.

    The traffic light route

    As a result, economists from University College London have published a ‘traffic light route’ out of lockdown, which they say is designed to kickstart the economy again, whilst doing its best to limit the spread of the virus.

    They’ve explained that their ‘blueprint’ is just one of the proposed lockdown exit strategies being circulated around the government. It has been co-authored by economists Professor Paul Ormerod (UCL Computer Science), and Dr Gerard Lyons, former economic adviser to Boris Johnson.

    MORE: When will we be out of lockdown? Four ways the UK lockdown could be lifted

    Professor Ormerod explained, “A lockdown is necessary to limit the spread of the virus and save lives, but it is not feasible or practical to prolong it for too long. A long lockdown will wipe out large swathes of the economy. There will be a negative impact both financially and mentally on too many people.”

    London during lockdown, traffic light system out of lockdown

    Credit: Getty Images

    He went on to state that any plan would of course need to be approved by health experts, though.

    “While full support must be provided to the health specialists, on a parallel track the economic experts should be planning now, for an exit strategy from the lockdown and for a restarting of the economy.

    “This has to be in addition to the implementation of policy, to minimise the hit to income and to demand.”

    What is the traffic light system for lifting lockdown measures?

    So what is the traffic light system, and what does it mean in terms of restrictions being lifted? The proposed traffic light system – which as yet has no official backing from the government – is centred around the idea of coming out of the lockdown in three phases.

    There is a Red phase, which they suggest kickstarting in early May, a later Amber phase, and an even later Green phase.

    Red phase – May

    The economists suggests that this phase be called the Red phase, to alert people to the fact that they still need to be very cautious. They explain that it could begin at the start of May – however, it’s important to remember that the early May date is likely to be inaccurate, given that the current lockdown has been extended until at least 7th May.

    During this phase, they suggest that the following could become acceptable:

    • Visits to friends and family permitted – but still no visit to the elderly
    • More smaller shops could be opened, with strict social distancing measures
    • But, travel should still be highly discouraged, and no international flights

    MORE: UK lockdown rules: The dos and don’ts of the lockdown rules in the UK as the measures are extended

    Amber phase – 22nd May

    • Private car travel no longer limited
    • Home working still advised for people who can
    • Restaurants could re-open, but with strict social distancing in terms of seating
    • Wearing masks and gloves could be compulsory on public transport
    • To reduce strain on public transport and numbers of people, the rush hour could be staggered

    Green phase – 13th June

    The economists at UCL suggest this could potentially be the date that the lockdown is almost fully lifted – if public health experts were to allow it.

    They also suggest that on this date:

    • Sporting events and mass gatherings could resume
    • Places of worship could re-open
    • International travel could return to normal

    The proposal’s co-authors suggested that lifting the lockdown measures in this way could give the government time to develop their testing, tracking and treatment strategy – which they say “will be crucial during the period of a vaccine gap”. A vaccine for coronavirus is not expected for some months, if even this year.

    It’s important to remember though that the above traffic light system is only a suggested route out of lockdown – and these aren’t measures which the government has formerly put into place with the guidance of health officials.

    In fact, the Prime Minister’s deputy, Dominic Raab, said at a press conference last week that relaxing measures too early could have an even more devastating impact on the economy – if more employees are left sick and unable to work.

    Lockdown measures will be officially reviewed in three weeks time.