A nation afraid of a terrible disease, traumatized by tens of thousands of deaths, but also anxious about what this blockade would mean for its livelihood and future: Boris Johnson knew the scale of the task he faced when he told the public that he had a "roadmap" to "beat the virus" and "reopen society"
The 50-page strategic document that the government published in May was designed to give everyone clear signage and staging on our journey towards a 'new normal'. to live with COVID-19.
The loosening of the block was predicated on five tests – from the protection of the NHS to the sustained fall in the mortality rate. At the center of public messages was the commitment to keep the R reproduction number below one and a new COVID alert level system to inform the speed of lifting crashes.
"Good and bad" news from the latest coronavirus data
And yet, we found ourselves a month later easing the block against the backdrop of an R rate marginally worse than in May (from 0.7 to 0.9) across the country and potentially above one in the northwest, according to data published by Public Health England and Cambridge University.
The COVID alert level is still at 4, and yet Johnson is following his plan to reopen outlets from June 15 and the hospitality industry in general from July 4.
Ministers point to a sustained drop in mortality rates and confirmed cases as evidence that the disease is in abeyance. But there are some scientists – and politicians – who worry that ministers are potentially lifting the blockade too soon and risking a resurgence of infections when the imminent economic meltdown comes into view.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted that "there is simply no trade-off" when I made that point in Monday's daily briefing: "If we don't have control of this virus, the economy will suffer even more. It's simplistic to say that there is a exchange between economy and health.
"A second spike would be extremely damaging to the economy. Of course there are discussions about the weather. But … things are going in the right direction, which is why we can say that the coronavirus is withdrawn."
Discarded plans for students to return to school
There are people in Hancock's party who are not so sure. A former senior minister told me this week that the government is facing the "worst of both worlds" because it needed to open up the economy to try to save jobs at a time when the infection rate was still relatively high compared to other European countries that been on a similar journey.
David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, believes that the government should reopen the economy, get people to work and try to manage the disease through effective screening and screening.
"They are very nervous. They are afraid of having a second block. Absolutely terrified. But the truth is that we need to get back to work.
"In fact, unemployment and economic damage also kill people, in fact, much more than they die of coronavirus, if we are not very careful."
"We have to suppress the virus, it does not mean to suppress the economy. They are not the same thing."
These are all difficult choices and there will be exchanges – regardless of whether ministers admit it or not.
Bars and restaurants not yet open
The fact that the government is opening theme parks, betting shops and even pubs before schools admit all their students again shows the way education has been put on the back burner, as the government first prioritized a health crisis and now an economic one .
And these economic and public health considerations are now guiding government decisions: that the government is pushing to ease the blockade, despite the R number still hovering close to one and the COVID alert level still at level 4, is enough evidence to The Route Map is being adjusted as we go.
And as the roadmap is redesigned, public confidence in the number 10’s ability to safely take them on this out-of-control journey is waning.
The UK government now has the lowest joint approval rating in the world (alongside Mexico) for the way it administered the coronavirus, according to a survey conducted this week by YouGov.
Johnson's personal approval rating has dropped 29 points to -7 since his script was released on May 10 so far. It may be a reminder to the PM and his team that, if you are trying to get people, be honest about the path.