Coronavirus lockdown measures in the UK will be extended for at least another three weeks, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab, who is deputizing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from coronavirus infection, told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.
He said the advice from experts warned that any change to the 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 made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures. So early relaxation would do more damage to the economy over a longer period,” he said, adding that “relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy.”
As of 9am on 16 April, 327,608 people had been tested in the UK, of whom 103,093 tested positive. At least 13,729 have died.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic. If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made,” Mr Raab said. “That would risk a quick return to another lockdown with all the threat to life that a second peak to the virus would bring and all the economic damage that a second lockdown would carry.”
He made it clear that the current restrictions will remain in place. “The Government will continue to monitor the data on the impact of the virus. We will soon be able to test 100,000 people every day. That will give us greater understanding of the scope of infection across the country. It will also help us plan how to change the measures when we are ready to.”