In the Government's press briefing today (16 April), secretary of state Dominic Raab said the UK had to continue following the social distancing guidance and lockdown in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The systems put in place had, as so far indicated, helped to slow the spread of the virus, but more still had to be done as the infection rate still isn’t as low as needed.
“Any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus,” he added.
Relaxing the rules now could also risk a second peak of the virus and could, therefore, require an even longer period of social distancing and lockdown.
“Early relaxation could do more damage to the economy over a longer period,” said Raab.
“Relaxing any of the measures currently in place risk damage to both public health and our economy.”
The Government, therefore, has to increase the lockdown period for another three weeks.
Five specific needs have to be met before the Government relaxes the measures, he said. They are:
- A need to protect the NHS’s ability to cope and be confident we’re able to provide care across the UK
- A sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates to ensure confidence the infection rate has slowed
- Reliable data to show the rate of infection is decreasing
- Confidence in the operational challenges around supplying PPE, etc. are in hand and that supply of these meets demand
- Confidence that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infection, which would overwhelm the NHS
A second peak would be the worst outcome for the country and the economy, said Raab.
Continuing the lockdown
Continuing the lockdown would also allow the Government to put better plans in place to bring the UK out of lockdown.
In the meantime, the Government would also look at how and when it would allow certain businesses to open as long as the threat was as low as possible.
He acknowledged the financial burden on businesses and people across the UK, highlighting the financial support put in place to help, adding the Government was being open and transparent about this help.
Looking to other countries and how they have handled the virus by bringing their residents out of lockdown did not necessarily translate to the UK, he said.
He added: “Together, united, we must keep up this national effort. We’ve come too far, especially now the efforts are starting to pay off. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”