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Coronavirus: Government denies changing lockdown exit tests as wording changes overnight

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
The government has changed the wording to the fifth test on when lockdown restrictions should be lifted. (Gov.uk)
The government's five lockdown tests as they read now. The phrase 'that overwhelms the NHS' has been added to the wording of the fifth test. (Gov.uk)

The government has denied altering its five tests on ending the coronavirus lockdown after the wording on its slides changed overnight.

Earlier this month, foreign secretary Dominic Raab set out five tests that must be met before lockdown restrictions can be relaxed.

The fifth test stated that any adjustments to current measures “will not risk a second peak of infections”.

However, slides shown during Tuesday's daily press briefing saw the words “that overwhelms the NHS” added to the end of the sentence.

The slide previously did not mention overwhelming the NHS in its fifth test. (Gov.uk)
The previous version of the slide did not mention overwhelming the NHS in its fifth test. (Gov.uk)

Critics have argued that a second peak was unavoidable and so the original test would never be met, while others speculated that the change signalled a move that the government was about to end lockdown.

But a Number 10 spokesman denied claims the tests had been changed, adding: "The slide has just been updated to more specifically reflect what Dominic Raab said on 16 April: 'Fifth, and this is really crucial, we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.’"

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Environment secretary George Eustice this morning also denied that the government has watered down its fifth goal for reducing the lockdown.

He told Sky News: "It has always been the case that we want to avoid that second peak because we want to avoid our NHS being overwhelmed.

"It was simply the case that on one slide last week that second part of the sentence was omitted and it was added back in on a slide yesterday.

In this photo made available by 10 Downing Street, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gestures during a coronavirus media briefing at 10 Downing Street, in London, Thursday April 16, 2020. The British government says a nationwide lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus will remain in place for at least three more weeks. (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/ via AP)
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced the tests that would need to be met before Britain can come out of lockdown. (AP)

"I think there's a sort of obsession about nothing over this, to be honest."

Boris Johnson said this week that there would not be an early move out of lockdown, which is set to stay until at least 7 May, when the next review takes place.

During his first speech since being admitted to intensive care with coronavirus, the prime minister said: “I can see the long-term consequences of lockdown as clearly as anyone, and so yes I entirely share your urgency, it's the government's urgency.

"And yet we must also recognise the risk of a second spike, the risk of losing control of that virus and letting the reproduction rate go back over one.

"Because that would mean not only a new wave of death and disease but also an economic disaster, and we would be forced once again to slam on the brakes across the whole country, and the whole economy, and reimpose restrictions in such a way as to do more and lasting damage.

"And so I know it is tough and I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS.”

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