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Fri, 5 June 2020

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Coronavirus: UK set for at least three more weeks of lockdown as ministers meet to plot way ahead

Coronavirus: UK set for at least three more weeks of lockdown as ministers meet to plot way ahead

Shops in Belfast are shuttered as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

3 min read

Senior ministers are expected to signal that the coronavirus lockdown in the UK will continue for at least another three weeks as they meet without Boris Johnson to plot the way ahead.

Dominic Raab will chair the latest meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee after the Prime Minister spent his third night in intensive care being treated for the illness.

It comes ahead of Easter Monday's three-week deadline to review the curbs first imposed by the Mr Johnson on 23 March.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has said the PM "continues to make steady progress" at St. Thomas's Hospital in London.

The Cobra meeting will bring together key Cabinet ministers as well as the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Government’s coronavirus legislation says ministers must review the need for restrictions on people’s movement every 21 days.

No formal decision on whether or not to extend the measures is expected to the taken at the latest Cobra summit, although the Welsh Government has already made clear it will maintain the restrictions beyond the Easter weekend.

According to The Times, political leaders from across Britain will launch a ‘Stay at Home This Easter’ campaign immediately after the Cobra meeting, which comes after the country suffered its highest daily Covid-19 death toll of 938.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Downing Street press conference, NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said there were early signs that the strict curbs on people’s movement were working to ease pressure on the health service.

He said: “We are starting to see first signs of a plateauing of infections and hospitalisations. And if we had not taken those measures, if people had not complied with them, we would not be seeing that - we would be seeing an exponential curve.”

But he warned that ending the social distancing measures too soon would see the virus “start to spread again”.

Thursday’s Cobra meeting will also see ministers receive an update from police chiefs on their efforts to enforce the current lockdown.

The Guardian reports that at least five forces are pushing for ministers to tighten the restrictions further ahead of an Easter bank holiday that is expected to see warm weather.

It comes after police sent speed camera and traffic data to ministers showing road use in some areas was up 10% week-on-week.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The Met Police will be busy patrolling parks and open spaces across London this weekend – urging Londoners to do the right thing and follow the rules. I desperately want us to be able to keep our green spaces open for the millions of people that need them for essential walks and exercise – but that means everyone doing the right thing.”

The Government has meanwhile moved to shut down speculation that schools could reopen after the Easter weekend.

An unnamed minister told The Times: “We need to be led by the science, of course. But if we can reopen schools after the Easter holidays things could begin to get back to normal.”

But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "It’s still too early to say when the peak is going to be. Our focus is on stopping transmission while building NHS capacity, as that is what will save lives."

And a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Schools will remain closed until further notice, except for children of critical workers and the children who are most vulnerable.

"We will re-open schools when the scientific advice indicates it is safe to do so.”

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