Dominic Raab defends lockdown easing from Monday as he confirms England still on Covid alert level four
The Foreign Secretary said the UK was ‘transitioning from level four to level three’ of its Covid Alert system.
Dominic Raab has defended the decision to ease a string of lockdown restrictions from Monday as he confirmed England is still “transitioning” to a less severe level under its Covid-19 alert system.
The Foreign Secretary said the country could not “just stay in lockdown forever” amid criticism of the move to press ahead with school reopenings, outdoor retail and an easing of restrictions around socialising.
Boris Johnson has previously set out a five-stage ‘Covid Alert Levels’ system, with level four representing an “epidemic in general circulation” with “transmission high or rising exponentially”.
At the less-severe level three, the epidemic is deemed to be “in general circulation”.
But Mr Johnson did not reference the alert level when he outlined the latest batch of changes to lockdown earlier this week.
Speaking on Sunday, Mr Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “We’re transitioning from level four to level three.”
And the Foreign Secretary stood by the Government’s decision to move forward with easing lockdown despite the alert level remaining at four.
“We said that we were transitioning,” he said.
“We set out a roadmap, we set very clear conditions for moving.”
The Cabinet minister added: “We’ve always said we’ll follow the scientific advice.
“There are strict conditions that we need to see fulfilled - they have been fulfilled.
“The R [virus reproduction] level is below one. The death rate, if you look at the trend data, is coming down.
“We’ve got the testing and tracing system, we’ve got 25,000 tracers that have been recrutied, we’ve started already the testing and tracing.
“We’ve got the capacity to make sure that... we can trace the people that have been in close contact with all of those cases.
“So we’re making all of that progress that we described and that’s the basis on which we can proceed to step two tomorrow.”
Asked later on the Andrew Marr show whether the alert level would be lowered to three from tomorrow, Mr Raab said: “That’s not decided by me that’s decided by independent experts and they’ll update it.”
Mr Raab’s comments came as Professor Peter Openshaw, a respiratory physician who sits on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), acknowledged that there was “deep concern” among scientists about easing the lockdown “too fast”.
He told the BBC: "At the moment, we still have quite a large number of cases out there in the community and I think unlocking too fast carries a great risk that all the good work that's been put in by everyone to try to reduce transmission may be lost. So we do need to proceed with great, great care at this point."
Asked if the Government was moving to quickly to ease the restrictive measures, he said: "I think there is a pretty unanimous message now that we need to take this slowly and go step by step.
“We need to evaluate the effect of each step before we move to the next one. I don't hear any great dissent amongst the advisers who are speaking in public at the moment."