London: Lockdown in the UK, imposed last month, will continue for “at least another three weeks” to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced on Thursday, saying any relaxations now will harm both public health and the economy.
Addressing the daily No 10 briefing, Raab, who is deputising for coronavirus-affected Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the infection rate had not been brought down as far as needed.
The announcement came as the UK recorded another 861 coronavirus deaths in hospital, taking the total to 13,729.
Strict restrictions, such as requiring people to stay at home, shutting many businesses and preventing gatherings of more than two people – were introduced on March 23, as the government tried to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Ministers are required by law to assess whether the rules are working, based on expert advice, every three weeks.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic. If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made. That would risk a quick return to another lockdown with all the threat to life that a second peak to the virus would bring and all the economic damage that a second lockdown would carry,” he said, adding that the review found that the measures were working, but there was evidence the infection was spreading in hospitals and care homes.
Raab said five conditions needed to be met before the lockdown was eased – making sure the NHS could cope; a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate; reliable data showing the rate of infection was decreasing to manageable levels; ensuring the supply of tests and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could meet future demand; and being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak
He said he could not provide a definitive timeline, but said the Prime Minister’s warning at the outset of the epidemic that it would take about three months to come through the peak still applied.