Deputising prime minister Dominic Raab confirmed the UK’s lockdown will continue for “at least” three more weeks, as a poll was published showing 91% of the public support the government’s decision.
Raab said “there was light at the end of the tunnel” but repeated that relaxing the lockdown now, would undo the efforts taken, saying the country had “come too far to risk wasting all the sacrifices made to date.”
The foreign secretary made the announcement during the Downing Street daily press briefing that was held little more than an hour after a YouGov poll was published, claiming : “91% of Brits say they support extending the coronavirus lockdown measures for a further three weeks”.
Relaxing measures would be ‘worst outcome for country as a whole’
Raab said: “The worst thing we could do is ease up too soon. It would be the worst outcome not just for public health but the economy and the country as a whole.”
The decision means people will have to continue social distancing, staying at home, self isolating and restricting outside activities to exercise, essential shopping and work (if they are unable to work from home).
The extension was announced after Raab chaired a Cobra meeting of the government’s emergency response committee, also attended by the first ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster and Mark Drakeford as well as London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Starmer supports extension but calls for government’s exit strategy
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he supported the extension but repeated his call for the government to publish their exit strategy from the coronavirus lockdown.
In a letter sent earlier this week to Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while the PM recuperates at Chequers following his discharge from hospital, Starmer said: “Ministers have argued that now is not the time to talk about this. I profoundly disagree.
“Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you. Millions of people have played their part and exceeded government assumptions about their willingness to make sacrifices and to stay at home in the national interest.”
5 signs to end lockdown
Starmer said the government “needs to open and transparent with the public” about their plans to “ease and eventually end” the lockdown, warning “silent pressures” on disadvantaged communities cannot be underestimated.
Raab told today’s press briefing that there were five signs the UK needed to see before the lockdown could be relaxed: a persistent fall in the daily death rate; maintaining NHS capacity to treat Covid-19 patients; supply of PPE and tests to meet demand; evidence from SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) showing manageable levels of the infection rate (known as R0); and, no risk of a second peak of infections.
Grim stats and Hancock’s 100,000 tests-per-day pledge
Public Health England (PHE)’s latest figures show the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK has passed the 100,000 mark, with 13,729 deaths of people hospitalised by the virus.
There have been 417,649 tests concluded up to 9am on April 16, testing 327,608 individual people, of whom 103,093 tested positive.
The number of tests conducted yesterday April 15) was 18,665. Health secretary Matt Hancock reiterated his pledge for 100,000 daily tests by the end of the month when he led Wednesday’s (April 15) Downing Street daily briefing.