Prime minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that he will next week unveil a comprehensive plan outlining how the UK economy could reopen, in his first appearance at the government’s daily press briefing since he was hospitalised with coronavirus.
“I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, how we can get our children back to school, back in to childcare, and how we can travel to work and make life in the workplace safer,” he said.
The plan will outline how the UK can continue to suppress the coronavirus disease and restart the economy at the same time, he said.
Referencing the extent to which he “mourned for every life lost” and the “economic damage the country is sustaining,” Johnson said he believed a second wave of the virus resulting from a premature easing of measures would do “lasting” damage to the UK economy.
The plan will thus include five key tests that must be satisfied before it can be put into action. The ability of the National Health Service (NHS) to cope with coronavirus infections must firstly be protected, he said.
Secondly, the country must see a “sustained fall” in coronavirus-related deaths, he said. Thirdly, the government must be sure that the virus’s infection rate is falling.
Fourthly, the UK must overcome the operational and logistical challenges related to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
And finally, Johnson said, the UK must “make sure” that the measures the country takes do not risk a second spike of infections that would “overwhelm” the NHS.
Johnson on Thursday (30 April) said for the first time that the UK was “past the peak” of coronavirus cases and “on the downward slope.”
Noting that the UK was “leading” international efforts to find a vaccine, Johnson nonetheless said that, until an inoculation is found, the UK would have to combat the disease with “resolve” and “ingenuity.”
Those producing the plan were being “guided by the science,” Johnson said, noting that the government wanted to build “maximum” political consensus around the proposal.
“What you are going to get next week is really a road map, a menu of options,” Johnson said.
“The dates and times of each individual measure will be very much driven by where we are in the epidemic.”
Johnson revealed that a further 674 people had died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, taking the nation’s total to 26,711.
The rise came after Wednesday’s inclusion of fatalities outside hospitals brought the UK’s total to the third-highest official toll in the world.
Earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the government’s emergency measures to prop up the economy during the crisis will cost £104bn ($130bn) this year alone.
The ONS said the UK government’s furlough scheme, which subsidises wages for staff at risk of redundancy, could cost £49bn over the next year.