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Dominic Raab confirms ‘no change’ in UK coronavirus lockdown as top scientist says crucial reproduction rate rising

Dominic Raab speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference.

3 min read

There has been “no change” in the Government’s guidance on social distancing, Dominic Raab has confirmed, as one of its top scientific advisers said the coronavirus reproduction rate was rising.

Speaking after the latest three-weekly review of lockdown measures, the Foreign Secretary said Boris Johnson would use his Sunday address to the nation to set out a “road map” for how the curbs on normal life might eventually be eased.

But he pleaded with Brits not to change their behaviour over the bank holiday weekend following a string of press reports that Mr Johnson will ease some measures on outdoor activity when he makes his speech.

“Whatever’s been reported in the newspapers is not a reliable guide to either evidence we’re getting or the policy decision we’ll be taking,” he said.

“I think it’s safe to say that any changes in the short-term will be modest, small, incremental, and very carefully monitored. And, as of now, there is no changes.”

And the Foreign Secretary warned: “I think whether you’re in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast, as we enter another long bank holiday weekend, I think the message is very clear - follow the guidance...

“There is no change today in the guidance or in the rules."

Mr Johnson’s Sunday evening address will be followed by a statement in the Commons on Monday, with a batch of documents advising businesses on how they might safely get employees back to work also expected.

But Downing Street has moved to dampen speculation of any imminent adjustment to the lockdown measures, which have now been in place for more than six weeks.

And the Foreign Secretary suggested that the Prime Minister will not directly lift any measures when he speaks at the weekend, instead outlining steps to be taken in the future.

“What the PM will do is set out on Sunday a road map that can look to the future and explain what steps will be taken at what moments in time and, critically, the evidence that will back it up,” he said.

“We’ve always said, consistently, from the outset, we’ve got to take the right decisions at the right moments in time guided by the evidence. That is consistently what we said from the outset, and that is continuing."

R RATE LATEST

Ministers have said they will not lift any lockdown measures that will risk a second wave of the virus, with the Government aiming to keep the reproduction rate of the virus below 1.

Mr Raab said the latest data shows that the R rate, which tells ministers how many other people will likely become infected for every one person who gets ill, is currently sitting at between 0.5 and 0.9.

The top-end of that estimate suggests there is still little wiggle room to ease significant elements of the lockdown, and it came just after Professor John Edmunds, who sits on the Government's Sage advisory committee, told MPs that the epidemic was now "concentrated" in hospitals and care homes.

Professor Edmunds said the most recent estimates put the R rate between 0.75 and one - a calculation backed at the press conference by the UK's chief statistician Sir Ian Diamond.

He said: "Professor Edmunds I think is right that R has probably gone up just a little bit from his last estimates and that is driven by the epidemic in care homes, he would say, and I would not demur from that. That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes."

Appearing to contradict that statement, Mr Raab said: "Overall the R level is down, but there is clearly a challenge that remains in care homes."

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