Wales has extended its lockdown to beyond the Easter weekend, hours after a minister told Sky News it was “not the right moment” for the UK as a whole to consider relaxing the restrictions.
Britons have been living under stringent restrictions on movement in the last few weeks in a bid to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
After health minister Edward Argar told Kay Burley@Breakfast it was “not the right moment” to make any changes, Wales’ devolved government has confirmed its measures will remain in place beyond the original three-week timeframe laid out by Downing Street last month.
The Welsh housing and local government minister Julie James said: “It’s almost two-and-a-half weeks since we asked people to stay at home, to work from home whenever they can, and to stop making unnecessary journeys.
“These measures will remain in place next week.”
Earlier, Mr Argar had told Sky News: “We will be led by the scientific evidence of when is the right moment for the changes to be made.
“At the moment that is not the right moment.”
The government instructions state that people should only be leaving their house during the lockdown for food, health reasons, outdoor exercise or to go to work if they cannot do their job from home.
When he announced the lockdown last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the measures would be reviewed every three weeks.
On Easter Monday, it will be three weeks since the lockdown was imposed.
But the PM’s admission to hospital – and subsequent move to intensive care – has thrown the timing of the review into question and raised fears of a power vacuum.
Mr Johnson’s condition remains “stable”, according to the latest update from Downing Street on Tuesday evening.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference that day, Dominic Raab suggested the lockdown review could be pushed back.
The foreign secretary, who is deputising in Mr Johnson’s absence, stressed ministers could not consider easing the lockdown restrictions until it was clear the peak of the epidemic had passed and it could be “responsibly done”.
Downing Street later confirmed the review would take place after the three-week mark originally committed to.
However, emergency legislation put before parliament three days after the lockdown was introduced states that a review must take place every 21 days, with the first deadline on 16 April.
Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates reports that some government figures are saying there are “tentative” talks about how the lockdown could be eased.
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Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Mr Argar reiterated the point made by the foreign secretary about ensuring the peak of the outbreak has passed before easing the lockdown restrictions.
“As the chief scientific adviser said there are some positive signs in terms of the rate of growth of the virus slowing,” he said.
“But we don’t know – the evidence isn’t there yet as to whether we’ve reached the peak.
“The message this weekend, this week, is hugely important. It’s keep staying at home, keep protecting our NHS. By doing that, we will save lives.
“Now is not the time to let up, now is the time to double down, keep following that advice and sticking with it.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the UK was “nowhere near lifting the lockdown”.
“We think the peak – which is the worst part of the virus – is still probably a week-and-a-half away,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Data from a tracker app suggests that the lockdown is working to halt the spread of the virus.
The number of people aged 20-69 who are reporting COVID-19 symptoms has fallen from 1.9 million to 1.4 million across the UK, according to analysis of data from the COVID Symptom Tracker app.
Contributors can track their daily health on the specially created app, which is also being used by healthcare and hospital workers nationwide.