Dominic Raab warns Tory lockdown critics second coronavirus wave would ‘risk the economy’
Dominic Raab warned against lifting the lockdown too soon.
Dominic Raab has batted away calls from senior Conservatives to ease the coronavirus lockdown, as he warned that a second wave of the disease could deal a “serious blow” to the economy.
The Foreign Secretary, who has been deputising for Boris Johnson ahead of a return to work on Monday, said ministers needed to lead a “sure-footed” response to the outbreak.
The comments come amid mounting pressure from senior Tory MPs and donors to begin setting out plans for a return to normal life, with 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady today demanding “a grown-up national debate” about the restrictive curbs.
Michael Spencer, who donated to Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign last year, meanwhile told The Sunday Times: “We should start loosening up [the lockdown] as soon as we reasonably can and allow the economy to start moving forward. We should really begin to offer a narrative of how and when it’s going to stop.”
The Government is also facing a fresh demand from Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer to set out an “exit strategy” and treat the public like “adults” by explaining how the lockdown - so far in force for more than a month - might be lifted.
But Mr Raab told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the public was “overwhelmingly” concerned the Government “might ease up too soon”.
He said: “If we started proposing one or other measure that subsequently, down the line we found out we wrongly implemented, I think you’d be saying that we’d jumped the gun. You’d be criticising us for that and I think the public would be getting mixed messaging.”
And he warned critics: “If we take the wrong measures now, it’s not just the risk to public health, [it’s] also the risks to the economy.
“Because we’d get a second spike, a second lockdown, and that would be a serious blow to public confidence.
“So we’re going to take the right decisions at the right time and… make sure the next step is a sure-footed one in this crisis.”
The Foreign Secretary meanwhile warned Brits that “normal” life was unlikely to resume for some time, amid warnings that ministers still have little leeway to lift the lockdown without risking a second wave.
"I think it is even more important that we communicate with them, treat them like grown-ups on where we are going next" - Labour's Rachel Reeves
The number of people confirmed to have died with Covid-19 in hospitals in the UK passed 20,000 this weekend, with another 813 deaths announced on Sunday.
Mr Raab said of easing any measures: “It won’t be just going back, it will be a new normal if you like, with social distancing measures adapting to areas which are currently closed off.
“And we’ll make sure we’re guided by the scientific evidence.”
But Labour’s Rachel Reeves said other European countries had already begun to lift some of the sweeping measures imposed to try and limit the spread of the virus, including reopening primary schools.
The Shadow Cabinet Office minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: "We want the government to publish its plan so we can scrutinise it. We don't want to put forward a rival plan to the Government.
“We want to work with the government in bringing forward a plan and then getting that right.”
And she added: "It is incredibly important that the Government take people with us on this journey.
“People have, by-and-large stuck by the rules that have been put in place and because they have done that I think it is even more important that we communicate with them, treat them like grown-ups on where we are going next.”
Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham meanwhile called on ministers to introduce a “standards-led” approach to easing the lockdown, with watchdog the Health and Safety Executive deciding whether businesses could reopen once it was sure they could properly put social distancing measures in place to protect their staff.
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