Boris is right to be wary of easing lockdown too soon, says ROSS CLARK

While other European countries are already loosening their rules, they are a little ahead of us in the pandemic. The wise thing for our own Government is to do as it is doing: to plan for reopening the economy in stages, but not yet to name any firm dates. It is looking to South Korea which has been hugely successful in tackling the virus with far fewer deaths than in Europe.

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They have achieved it by testing, tracking and tracing infected people so they can be rapidly quarantined. Our own Government is now looking to do the same - using technology to try to keep new cases to very low levels until, hopefully, we have a vaccine.

The lockdown is depressing for all of us, but especially for those who have lost their livelihoods, those who live on their own and those who have spent large amounts of time and money planning for special occasions such as weddings.

The acute economic pain that has been wrought by coronavirus and the lockdown has become even more evident this week as the Office for National Statistics presented grim evidence that even among UK companies still trading, a quarter have lost more than half of their revenue. British Airways announced 12,000 redundancies, erasing hopes it would be able to furlough its entire workforce until the business could be reawakened. Nissan said its car plant in would not start production until June.

We cannot keep the economy in the deep-freeze indefinitely.

But the Government's fear is that a too-rapid exit from lockdown would be even more economically damaging than an extra few weeks of restrictions - as well as costing more lives.

Boris JohnsonBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Image: PA Video/PA Wire/PA Images)

The Government's reasoning all comes down to something called the R number, which is the average number of people an infected person will go on to infect. If it is less than one an epidemic will steadily fade away. If above one, then the number of people infected will rise at an ever increasing rate. Unfortunately, this is true even if the R number is only just above one. 

Thanks to the lockdown, the Government's scientific advisers believe that R is 0.6 to 0.9. But it wouldn't take much in the way of

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