“The worst thing we could do right now is ease up too soon,” Dominic Raab said as he extended the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
The first secretary, leading Thursday’s daily COVID-19 press conference in Downing Street, confirmed the lockdown would last for another three weeks at least.
Raab said any change to the current social distancing measures would “undo the progress we have made to date”.
On a day when the UK’s coronavirus death roll reached 13,729, Raab said the lockdown will only be lifted under five conditions.
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They are as follows:
1. Knowing the NHS can cope
The first secretary said “we must be confident we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK”.
2. Sustained fall in daily death rate
Raab said there will have to be a “sustained and consistent” fall in daily deaths before the lockdown can be lifted, so “we are confident we have moved beyond the peak”.
Thursday’s increase of 861 deaths was the highest since Saturday, when there was 917 announced by the government.
3. Infection rate falling to manageable levels
Raab said: “We need to have reliable data from SAGE [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.”
4. Testing capacity and protective equipment supply
Raab said: “We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE [personal protective equipment, used by healthcare and care workers] are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.”
The government has been criticised on numerous occasions during the coronavirus crisis over its testing programme and supply of PPE.
5. Confident a second wave of infections won’t hit
“This is really crucial,” Raab said.
“We must be confident any adjustments from the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that would overwhelm the NHS.
“The worst thing we could do right now is ease up too soon and allow a second wave of the virus to hit the NHS and hit the British people.
“It would be the worst outcome not just for public health, but the economy and our country as a whole.”