Boris: ‘We Are Past the Peak of This Disease’, But the End of Lockdown Remains Distant

Boris Johnson Downing Street
Downing Street

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hosted his first coronavirus press conference since returning to work after recovering from the disease, and has warned the British people that while the number of infections is falling, the end of lockdown remains distant.

Speaking from his official residence at 10 Downing Street Thursday afternoon, Mr Johnson apologised for having been absent from the briefings for so long, and in addressing the latest figures on infections noted the number of patients in intensive care beds was now falling.

Telling Britain that: “for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease… and we are on the downward slope”, and there are “many reasons to be hopeful for the long term”, the Prime Minister nevertheless made clear the lockdown was to remain for the long term as well, with even slight relaxations apparently distant.

Mr Johnson said a “comprehensive plan” was being developed by the government, but repeating earlier remarks by first secretary of state Dominic Raab, said they wouldn’t be put into action until the ‘five tests’ were satisfied. Given how difficult it appears some requirements will be to meet, the implication is the United Kingdom may remain under lockdown for quite some time.

Saying the coming stages would require “collective discipline” on behalf of the United Kingdom and that the country would have to continue to pull together in a way “few of us have seen in our lifetimes”, Mr Johnson nevertheless noted that much had already been achieved. He said: “we have succeeded in the first and most important task that we set ourselves as a nation… at no stage has our NHS been overwhelmed.

“No patient has been denied a ventilator, no patient was deprived of intensive care… we avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic where the reasonable worst-case scenario was 500,000 deaths. So I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease.”

While the Prime Minister did not put a clear date on when lifting the lockdown might come, the government’s spokesman gave some indications earlier in the day when they refused to rule out it lasting until June. The Daily Telegraph reported the spokesman’s comments when they said: “What you’ve obviously heard from Chris Whitty is that this is a disease that’s going to be around for a significant amount of time.

“He said we have to be realistic, we’re going to have to do a lot of things for a long period of time.”

Today’s press briefing was the first for Prime Minister Johnson since he went into hospital on April 5th with coronavirus symptoms. Mr Johnson was transferred to intensive care the following day and only returned to work this Monday, having taken time to continue his recovery at Chequers Court, the PM’s country retreat.

Just two days after the Prime Minister returned to work, his fiancée Carrie Symonds gave birth to the couple’s first child together, raising the prospect that Mr Johnson may take more time off work, although he has now indicated that would wait until later in the year, when the coronavirus pandemic had subsided.

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