Dominic Raab has set out a five point criteria Britain must meet before it can start easing emergency coronavirus measures.
Speaking at today’s Downing Street press conference he said lifting the lockdown too early ‘would undo the progress we’ve made’ and ‘would require an even longer period’ of restrictions. The Foreign Secretary declined to give a specific date for when measures would be lifted because it would be preempting the scientific evidence the Government is following.
He said ‘we want to be as upfront with the British people as we possible can’ as he announced current measures would remain in place for at least three weeks. Raab added: ‘The very clear advice we’ve received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus. That would threaten a second peak of the virus and substantially increase the number of deaths.’
Setting out the five things the UK would need to achieve before the lockdown can start to be lifted, Raab said: ‘First we must protect the NHS’ ability to cope, we must be confident we can provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK.
Five things the UK must achieve before Government lifts lockdown
- NHS must be able to cope and provide sufficient care
- Evidence showing a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates
- Reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels.
- Confidence enough tests and PPE are at hand to use
- Confidence any adjustments won’t trigger a second peak
‘Second, we need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident we have moved beyond the peak.
‘Third we need to have reliable data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.
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‘Fourth we need to be confident the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand with supply able to meet future demand.
‘Fifth we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that will overwhelm the NHS.
‘The worst thing we could do right now is ease up too soon, allow a second peak of the virus to hit the NHS and the British people.
‘It would be the worst outcome not just for our health but the economy, and the country as a whole.
‘When we are confident on these five points we will look to adjust the measures to make them effective as possible in protecting public health whilst allowing some economic and social activity to resume.
‘It could involve relaxing some measures and strengthening them in other areas.’
Raab said he appreciated the frustration felt by many Britons who’ve been asked to stay at home, avoid all non-essential journeys and business owners who don’t know what the future holds.
He added: ‘Whether it’s the cost being shouldered, the sacrifices people are making, being isolated from friends and family, whole households cooped up inside all week long, parents having difficult conversations with young children who just don’t understand why they can’t see their grandparents or go outside and meet up with friends, families struggling to manage home schooling and balancing that with working from home.
‘People concerned by household finances, uncertain about the future of their jobs, a small business that remains closed – we get it.
‘We know it’s rough going at this time. Now is not the time to give the coronavirus a second chance.’
Boris Johnson initially said it could take three months to get past the peak of the UK’s outbreak, which Raab said is ‘still the outline’.
But he said the Government will be ‘taking it step by step, guided by the evidence’ and would review its restrictions at the end of the month.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said experts were examining the risks of an extended lockdown leading to non-Covid 19 related deaths or illnesses.
Potential dangers include medical procedures being postponed to help the NHS focus on the outbreak and the economic impact of the shutdown.
Prof Whitty said: ‘We know that anything that increases deprivation can, in the long run, cause issues.
‘We are absolutely looking at how these work and how they interact, because in the next phase of this we need to take account of all of those, rather than just think about the direct Covid deaths, because if we just thought about those we could end up having a much less targeted approach and one that didn’t allow the NHS to respond properly to all these other indirect causes.’
The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘At the moment this is not a tension between the economy and health, it’s very clear what we need to do now, which is to keep this down, stop this from coming back again, stop a second wave, which would need a second lockdown.’
‘We do absolutely look at those long-term consequences and modelling that and thinking about what the implications of that is.’
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