UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Government ‘doesn’t expect’ to relax COVID-19 lockdown this week

By June 12, 2020 No Comments

The government does not expect to relax or lift the coronavirus lockdown later this week, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from the coronavirus, said there are some “positive signs” from the data that show “we are starting to win this struggle”.

But he warned: “We are still not past the peak.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab holds the daily press conference.
‘We’ve still got a long way to go’

He was speaking at the government’s daily COVID-19 press conference on Monday, which came ahead of the first review of the UK’s lockdown measures on Thursday.

The stringent restrictions, imposed last month in order to try to halt the spread of the virus, are widely expected to be extended.

Ministers have said they want to be certain the UK is past the peak of the epidemic before they ease the conditions of the lockdown.

Mr Raab said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) would review evidence of the effectiveness of social distancing measures when it meets on Tuesday, two days before the government makes its decision.

“We don’t expect to make any changes to the measures currently in place at that point and we won’t until we’re confident, as confident as we realistically can be, that any such changes can be safely made,” he said.

Mr Raab also paid tribute to members of the public who have followed government advice and remained indoors over the course of the Easter weekend.

People flout lockdown
People defy lockdown rules on Good Friday

The foreign secretary said the “overwhelming majority” of Britons had followed the lockdown rules and added: “By staying home this weekend, you’ve saved lives.

“Thank you, your efforts are making all the difference. And please keep them up – we’ve come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones and we’ve sacrificed too much to ease up now.”

The confirmed UK death toll passed 10,000 at the weekend, with a government adviser and infectious diseases expert warning the country could end up being the “worst affected” in Europe.

In its latest figures released on Monday, the Department of Health said a further 717 coronavirus patients had died, taking the UK’s total to 11,329.

It is the lowest increase recorded over the Bank Holiday weekend, after 980 on Friday – which surpassed the worst confirmed daily totals in Italy and Spain – 917 on Saturday and 737 on Sunday.

But the true number of deaths will be higher, as these figures do not include all deaths in the community.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told Monday’s news conference that he would like to see testing increased at care homes.

He said 13.5% of care homes have been affected so far, with outbreaks reported in 92 of them in the last 24 hours.

No. 10 released this video after PM was released from hospital.
PM: ‘It could have gone either way’

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said he expects the overall death toll to increase this week before “plateauing”.

He said the UK was tracking behind Italy and “following the same sort of path” when it comes to hospital deaths, although the number of people in hospital beds with COVID-19 is starting to “flatten off” in many parts of the country.

With Boris Johnson now out of hospital, Downing Street has said he tested negative for the virus before being discharged and is now focused on his recovery at his country mansion.

Mr Johnson will not be doing any government work and will only return to his office on the advice of his medical team, Number 10 added.

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The government, meanwhile, has insisted that its testing regime is “heading in the right direction”.

Downing Street has pledged to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month, a target which the PM’s spokesman has said the UK is on course to meet.

A spokesman said 18,000 had been conducted in the 24 hours to Sunday morning and “good progress” on getting to 100,000 tests was being made.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock grilled over care home PPE
Health Secretary tackled over lack of care home testing

On the subject of testing frontline NHS workers, he said there had been “significant progress”, with nearly 43,000 staff and their families tested so far.

But the government has fallen well short of the number of ventilators it planned to immediately add to the UK’s stocks to treat coronavirus patients.

An additional 200 machines – which provide oxygen for people suffering lung failure in severe cases – have been sent out to the NHS in the past week, Downing Street said on Monday.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock had vowed that around 1,500 ventilators would be acquired in that timeframe.

As well as concerns around ventilators and testing, there have been reports of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The situation has prompted the Royal College of Nursing to tell its members that as a last resort they should refuse to treat patients with COVID-19 if they are not given the right PPE.

Mr Raab said the government understood the “importance of getting PPE to the front line, whether it’s in care homes or the NHS”.

The foreign secretary said more than 16 million items of PPE were delivered over the Bank Holiday weekend, adding: “We are straining every sinew to roll them out even further and even faster.”

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