Britain’s stand-in Prime Minister, First Secretary Raab, has announced the nationwide shutdown has been formally extended by another three weeks, and has revealed the five tests the government has set to trigger an easing of restrictions.
Speaking from the Prime Minister’s residence of 10 Downing Street Thursday afternoon as he led the government’s daily coronavirus response press conference, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab — in usual times the Foreign Secretary — said the government had decided to extend the coronavirus lockdown.
Telling Britons that relaxing the lockdown early would damage both the health of the nation and the economy far more in the long run, the First Secretary set the five tests the government would need to see satisfied before it could change the terms of the nation’s house arrest.
Those requirements now are:
- The government must be confident the NHS has sufficient critical and specialist care across the whole of the country
- There must be a sustained and consistent fall in the daily coronavirus death toll
- Data from the scientific advisory group to the government shows the rate of infection has decreased to a manageable level
- Supply of tests and personal protection equipment is sufficient and able to meet future demand
- That relaxing the lockdown wouldn’t trigger an overwhelming second peak of infection
Relaxing too early could be catastrophic, Raab said, but even when change comes it would likely not be across the board. Illustrating the point, the First Secretary said depending on the circumstances the nation faced in weeks and months to come, a change to the lockdown conditions could see some regulations relaxed, while others were tightened to maintain balance.
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Emphasising why the government was sticking with lockdown now while some European countries were already starting to relax theirs, Mr Raab said the British government’s advice was rooted in the conditions in Britain, not those abroad, and that there was still a “mixed and inconsistent picture”. Of the risks, he said: “The very clear advice we have received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.
“That would threaten a second peak of the virus, and substantially increase the number of deaths. It would undo the progress we have made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the restrictive social distancing measures.
“So early relaxation would do more damage to the economy over a long period… the government has decided the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks.
Summarising, Mr Raab said: “we’ve already sacrificed too much to give up now… so we need to be patient a while longer… now is not the moment to give the coronavirus a second chance”.
Dominc Raab was selected by Boris Johnson as his stand-in on the day the prime minister was diagnosed with coronavirus in March. Ten days after that, Mr Johnson was admitted to hospital, and to intensive care the day after that. Now discharged, the PM is convalescing at Chequers court, a country home owned by the British government and given to Prime Ministers to use as a retreat.
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