Why Boris Johnson switched strategies on battling coronavirus

It took only four days to go from being asked to stay at home if you felt ill to a plea from the prime minister to put our lives on hold for weeks – perhaps months.

From next weekend the elderly, vulnerable, and pregnant women will be asked to retreat into their homes for 12 weeks.

There is already a huge step change in the government’s response, driven the by changing evidence and modelling around the spread and severity of the COVID-19 disease.

“We’ve had to accelerate,” is how one senior government figure privy to some of the planning decisions put it to me on Monday night.

“We thought we could put these social distancing measures off for another week and push the social shielding [the elderly and vulnerable being asking to stay at home for three months] back a week after that, but we’ve had to bring it forward.”

This is a global pandemic that now requires a wartime effort from all of us, with the UK now clearly on the same path as Italy, Spain, France as it begins to roll-out social lockdowns and home isolation.

More extreme measures – enforced curfews, school closures, travel bans – are all “under review”.

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