Boris Johnson back in Downing Street and ‘raring to go’ as he faces tough coronavirus decisions
Boris Johnson has returned to Downing Street to lead the coronavirus response (PA)
Boris Johnson has returned to Downing Street to lead the UK’s coronavirus response as he faces a raft of tough decisions about the country’s lockdown.
Despite only being released from hospital a fortnight ago following four days in intensive care suffering from Covid-19, the Prime Minister arrived back at Number 10 on Sunday night.
He is expected to be back at his desk on Monday morning and resume full-time duties at the head of the Government, starting with chairing the daily coronavirus "war cabinet”.
The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputising for him while he convalesced at official country residence Chequers, said he was "raring to go”.
But with major rows within his party about lifting the strict social distancing measures, along with ongoing issues with protective equipment for health workers and lower-than-hoped levels of testing, Mr Johnson will have little opportunity to ease himself back into work.
Deaths in hospital have now exceeded 20,000, with fears the UK is on course to have one of the highest mortality rates in Europe, and the PM is said to be determined to ensure that there is no second peak of the disease.
Mr Raab this weekend said the outbreak was at a "delicate and dangerous" phase and people would have to get used to a "new normal”, with measures set to remain in place for "some time" to come.
But there is a growing clamour from senior Tories to begin lifting the lockdown amid mounting concern at the damage it is causing to the country’s finances.
After being announced by the PM on March 23, it was renewed for another three weeks with a decision to be made before May 7.
The former chancellor Philip Hammond said the country could not afford to wait for a vaccine to be developed, saying the "economy will not survive that long".
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee, told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour there was a limit to how long people would tolerate restrictions, especially if they seemed illogical.
He said: “If there is a question over whether something is necessary or not, I think we should err on the side of openness and trying to make sure that more people can get on with their lives and more people can get on with getting back to their jobs.”
The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also issued a renewed call for the Government to set out an "exit strategy”, accusing them of treating the public "like children" for refusing even to give a hint of what it could look like.
Meanwhile, on testing, there are just five days left to hit the 100,000 per day promised by health secretary Matt Hancock by the end of April.
At the weekend Mr Raab said capacity had risen to more than 50,000, but the actual number of tests carried out has only reached 29,000 per day.
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