The UK’s coronavirus lockdown will remain in place for at least another three weeks to ensure the country gets over the peak of the epidemic, the government has announced.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from COVID-19, confirmed the extension following advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
Speaking at Downing Street’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Mr Raab said: “The government has decided that the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks.”
He said SAGE had advised that “relaxing any of the measures in place” would “undo the progress we have made” and would “risk damage to both public health and the economy”.
The extension takes the lockdown to at least 7 May, and Mr Raab hinted it would likely go further in light of a previous suggestion by the prime minister that the UK could “turn the tide” of the virus within 12 weeks.
Mr Johnson made the comment on 19 March, and Mr Raab admitted that was “broadly the outline” for when the UK might expect to return to some normalcy.
Mr Raab laid out five factors the government “must be satisfied of” before considering changes to the lockdown:
“We’ve come too far, lost too many loved ones and sacrificed too much to let up now – especially when we are now beginning to see that our efforts are paying off,” said Mr Raab.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are at a delicate and dangerous stage of this pandemic.”
The extension keeps people indoors, only leaving the house for one hour of exercise per day, to shop for essential supplies like food, for medical assistance, or to go to work if doing so from home is not possible.
There are no measures being lifted for now as the UK remains a few weeks behind other European countries badly hit by the pandemic, with Italy and Spain having slightly eased some restrictions following consistent daily falls in their infection and death rates.
Mr Raab said that while the lockdown had seen the rate of infection drop significantly, there were still “issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes”.