Easing the coronavirus lockdown too quickly could lead to a second peak in the outbreak, Downing Street has said.
Asked about reports that Boris Johnson favours a cautious approach to lifting restrictions introduced to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, his spokesman said: The big concern is a second peak.
A further 429 people who tested positive for coronavirus in England have died, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 14,829.
Nine deaths have been reported in Wales, bringing the total there to 584, and another 12 deaths have been reported in Scotland, bringing its total to 915.
The PM’s spokesman said easing restrictions too fast ultimately will do the most damage to health and the most damage to the economy.
If you move too quickly then the virus could begin to spread exponentially again.
The public will expect us to do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives.
According to a report in Monday’s The Times newspaper, Mr Johnson has told colleagues he is very cautious about easing the lockdown and that his overriding concern is avoiding a second wave.
The PM’s spokesman said Mr Johnson was getting daily written updates on the government’s COVID-19 response as he continues to recover at Chequers.
But he said the PM was not doing any government work.
Mr Johnson spent a week in hospital with persistent coronavirus symptoms, including a number of days in intensive care.
The spokesman would not be drawn on when the PM would return to Downing Street, but said Mr Johnson would be guided by the advice of his medical team.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, continues to deputise for the PM, Number 10 added.
Number 10 said that decisions on when to ease the terms of the lockdown will be based on advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), a group of experts advising the government about the outbreak.
Asked whether the lockdown could be modified rather than lifted entirely, the PM’s spokesman said: If you move too quickly, lifting the social distancing measures wholesale, then that could lead to the virus spreading exponentially again.
He pointed to Mr Raab’s suggestion that the next steps could involve relaxing measures in some areas while strengthening them in others.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is continuing to call on the government to set out its strategy for coming out of the lockdown.
Sir Keir joined other opposition leaders – understood to include SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat acting co-leader Sir Ed Davey – in what was described as a constructive telephone briefing from Mr Raab.
Keir Starmer reiterated his support for the government’s decision to extend the lockdown, but asked what planning was being put in place for when the restrictions are lifted, a spokesman for the Labour leader added.
Sir Keir was also said to have questioned Mr Raab about the shortage of protective personal equipment and whether the government would hit its target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of the month.
The PM’s spokesman told reporters that the government believes it remains on course to meet that target.
This is despite some 21,626 people in England, Wales and Scotland being tested in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday.
The PM’s spokesman said testing capacity for that period was 36,000 – down from 38,000 last week – but said this was because of commercial laboratories implementing new processes.
That’s not a permanent dip, he insisted.
The spokesman added that more than 88,000 NHS and social care staff and their relatives have now been tested.
On the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), he said more than 12 million items were delivered on Sunday but acknowledged there was a particular issue with gowns.
There was criticism after a shipment of 84 tonnes of PPE due to arrive from Turkey on Sunday was delayed.
Downing Street said the government was working to ensure that that shipment is delivered as soon as possible.
The PM’s spokesman continued: The RAF is on stand-by to take off as soon as the shipment is ready.
But, to be clear, we are not reliant solely on Turkey for the delivery of gowns and plenty more orders are lined up and expected.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Easing lockdown too quickly could lead to second COVID-19 peak, government warns