The economy is set to reopen – a little. Change is urgently needed as Britain is on track for a recession of extraordinary scale as swathes of the nation are effectively closed for business.
Draft guidance circulated to businesses indicates that any staff who can work from home must continue to do so.
Those who need to go into work must do so on a staggered basis to try to maintain social distancing, and sticking to specified shifts to limit the number of people any one worker can expect to meet.
Shop staff should be screened off from customers. Payments should be contactless where possible. And hotels should stagger check-in and check-out times.
This is far from a full end to the lockdown – which ministers fear would cause the virus to flare up again – but rather a tweak to the guidelines.
However, pressure is growing for more radical changes. Each month the lockdown continues wipes 1.5 percentage points off Britain’s GDP growth for the year, Capital Economics estimates.
Baby steps are more likely than any quick return to normal, opening up partially to allow scientists and officials to track the disease and attempt to keep a lid on its spread.
So where to begin? The Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections of the economic cost of lockdown give an insight into the damage wrought on each industry.
This ranges between a boost of as much as 50pc in health and care industries, due to enormous extra demand, and a collapse of 90pc in education and 85pc in accommodation and food services, which are effectively closed.
Not all industries are equal. Their differing scale means they have a varying effect on overall GDP, which must be considered when choosing which to prioritise when it comes to reopening.
Here is a selection from the biggest impact to the smallest.
Manufacturing accounts for 10pc of the economy. More than half of its output is being wiped out by the lockdown, so it is the biggest contributor to the slump, accounting for a 5.6pc blow to GDP, on the OBR’s numbers.
As a result, seeking to reopen that first would make sense. It is impossible to man a factory line from home, so clearly the sector needs to be allowed back to work.
Major manufacturers are already working on how this can be done without putting workers at risk from the virus.
The 14-page draft guidance for manufacturing and chemical plants, food and other large processing plants, warehouses, distribution centres and port operations says shared equipment such as pallet trucks and forklifts should be cleaned after each use and shift, with work areas frequently cleaned.
The wholesale, retail and motor trades are next. They make up a similar share of GDP and output is being cut in half by the lockdown.
Solutions are possible – supermarkets have shown that shops can remain open safely, albeit with major disruption and queues.
The draft guidelines suggest employers introduce one-way flow systems, limits to the number of customers allowed in a store at one time and screens to create a barrier between people. Shops should offer cashless payments and refunds, suspend or reduce customer services and start queues outside.
How much shopping bounces back will rely on consumer confidence, however. Surveys indicate more than half of Britons do not yet feel comfortable with the idea of returning to their old shopping habits even if the lockdown is lifted.
Worries over job security will also affect major purchases such as cars.
The education sector is smaller than the previous two, but with a 90pc tumble in output its contribution to the fall in GDP almost matches that of the larger industries.
As a result reopening schools and universities would give the economy a swift boost and represent an important step in the return to normality for the younger generations in particular.
This is also crucial for the wider economy. The CBI sees education as an “enabler” for the rest of the economy, because parents cannot go back to work if they still have to supervise and teach their children at home.
If teaching unions agree, schools could be among the first to return, filling a major hole in GDP immediately and helping get the rest of the economy back on track. The Telegraph reported on the weekend that primary schools could reopen as soon as June 1.
At the other end of the scale, the OBR believes financial services are suffering very little. The lockdown most likely means its output is about 5pc lower than normal. Financiers are simply working from home, plugging in a computer and getting on with it.
Finance accounts for 7.2pc of the economy, so a 5pc knock to that removes about 0.36 percentage points from GDP. That is uncomfortable, but amounts to just 1pc of the overall economic crunch.
So there is little rush to lift the lockdown there – no need to fill financial districts in London, Edinburgh and Manchester with workers who can do almost as well from their kitchen table.
Mining, energy and water supply
These key industries have taken a 20pc knock, but at just 3.4pc of the whole economy this has a relatively small effect on GDP.
Their crucial functions have been maintained, helping the other industries that rely on them.
Officials are unlikely to want to keep them locked down for too long – the energy industry is supposed to be in the middle of a low-carbon revolution – but for now it seems less of a priority.
Public administration and defence
These sectors face a one-fifth reduction in output. But plenty of public administrators can work from home, and those in key sectors are if anything boosting output by working hard as the Government ramps up efforts to stop coronavirus and cushion the economy.
Overall this marks a fall of just under 1pc in GDP and so those who do not have to go into the office are not at the front of the queue to break the lockdown.
Those left behind
Even with reopening, industries cannot go back to normal right away. The CBI warns public transport may only be able to run at 25pc of its usual capacity.
It means those who can work from home must continue to do so, leaving space on trains and buses for those who have to be physically present.
Hotels, pubs and restaurants may also struggle as social distancing rules limit customer numbers and international travel takes time to recover. On top of that, individuals may be reluctant to return to social mingling.
When they reopen, those industries will struggle with a lack of revenue.
Those workers whose jobs were saved by the furlough scheme will risk unemployment just as things are supposed to return to normal.
That means an extension of the furlough scheme is likely.
Bank of America economist Robert Wood estimates that extending the scheme to the end of the year would cost the taxpayer about £100bn.
“It would seem the government was 'saving money' initially” if it closed the scheme sooner, he says. “But the recovery would be curtailed, with GDP stagnating well below its pre-virus levels. Unemployment would remain persistently high, lowflation would persist.”
There are no easy options, and no quick ways out. Ending lockdown will not mean a return to freedom as usual for Britons – or the economy.