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3 March 2020

Government publishes four-phase COVID-19 action plan, with UK currently in phase one, to 'contain' the spread


The government's COVID-19 action plan sets out four phases: contain, delay, research, mitigate. The UK currently is focused on containing the spread. The action plan outlines actions to date and next steps, including actions if the virus spreads to pandemic levels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson launches the action plan at a press conference and Health Secretary Matt Hancock makes a statement to parliament. In his statement, Hancock states that 'the situation facing the country is increasingly serious'. He describes the four phases of the action plan and the objectives of each phase:

  • 'Contain is about detecting the early cases, following up with close contacts, and preventing the disease from taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible. This approach also buys time for the NHS to ramp up its preparations.' 
  • 'Delay is about slowing the spread, lowering the peak impact of the disease and pushing it away from the winter season. We are mindful of scientific advice that reacting too early or overreacting carries its own risks. So, subject to the primary goal of keeping people safe, we will seek to minimise social and economic disruption.'
  • 'Research is not just about developing a vaccine, which we are actively pursuing, but which will be many months away at the earliest. Research is also about understanding what actions will lessen the impact of coronavirus including what drugs and treatments – existing and new – will help those who are already sick.'
  • 'The fourth phase is mitigate. We will move on to this phase if coronavirus becomes established in the UK population. At that point, it would be impossible to prevent widespread transmission, so the emphasis will be on caring for those who are most seriously ill and keeping essential services running at a time when large parts of the workforce may be off sick. Our plans include not just the most likely case, but the reasonable worst case. We will identify and support the most vulnerable.'

Gov.uk policy paper

Gov.uk news story

Gov.uk oral statement to parliament