The UK’s coronavirus lockdown will remain in place for at least another three weeks, with the government outlining the conditions for easing restrictions.
Although Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there is light at the end of the tunnel, he warned the country remains at a delicate and dangerous stage of this pandemic.
Amid growing pressure to reveal details of an exit plan, Mr Raab revealed there are five factors that the government must be satisfied of before measures can be relaxed. They are:
- Confidence that the NHS can still provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK
- The need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate to be confident we are beyond the peak
- Reliable data from SAGE that the infection rate has decreased to manageable levels
- Testing capacity and PPE is in hand to meet supply for future demand
- Not risk a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS
Standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Mr Raab said that experts had warned relaxing the lockdown now would risk damage to both public health and the economy – and undo the progress made so far.
The extension takes the lockdown to at least 7 May, and Mr Raab hinted it would likely go further.
He added: We’ve come too far, lost too many loved ones and sacrificed too much to let up now – especially when we are now beginning to see that our efforts are paying off.
On Thursday, the total number of COVID-19 patients who have died in UK hospitals exceeded 13,000 after another 861 deaths were confirmed.
There have now been 103,093 positive tests for the illness nationwide.
The UK remains a few weeks behind other European countries badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain beginning to slightly ease some restrictions following consistent daily falls in their infection and death rates.
Over in the US, Donald Trump has unveiled a three-phase plan to help the US return to normal, with one in seven American workers now unemployed.
While the lockdown has seen the rate of infection drop significantly in Britain, Mr Raab warned there were still issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes.
Later today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock will face questions from MPs over the government’s coronavirus response.
He is expected to face scrutiny over the provision of personal protective equipment and the UK’s exit strategy, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claiming that Mr Raab has been reluctant to set out a timeline without Boris Johnson’s approval.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said wearing face masks on public transport should be made compulsory in the capital.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Mr Khan expressed fears that the UK is lagging behind the international community on this issue.
He wrote: The latest scientific evidence shows that they can reduce the chances of an individual unknowingly infecting other people with COVID-19 and can therefore help to slow the spread of the virus.
This is consistent with the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and with actions in other cities and countries around the world, many of whom have made wearing a face covering, especially when it is not possible to socially distance, a requirement before lifting lockdown.