Don’t expect lockdown to end this week, Dominic Raab warns country
Dominic Raab said the Government will not be easing lockdown measures this week (PA)
Dominic Raab has warned people not to expect the Covid-19 lockdown to be eased this week.
The First Secretary of State, deputising for the Prime Minister as he recovers from coronavirus, said strict social distancing measures will remain in place as deaths in the UK moved past 11,000.
When Boris Johnson first announced the guidelines, which mean people should stay indoors wherever possible, on March 23 he said they would be renewed after three weeks.
The Government now has to make a decision by Thursday whether to renew them for a further period, or begin to relax the restrictions.
But after Mr Raab revealed at the daily Downing Street press conference a further 717 people have now died from disease, taking the total to 11, 329, he added: “As those grisly figures that I’ve just read out show, we’re still not past the peak of this virus.”
The Foreign Secretary said of Thursday's deadline: “I should say we don’t expect to make any changes to the measures currently at place at that point and we won't until we’re confident - as confident as we realistically can be - that any such changes can be safely made.
“In the meantime, the Government will continue to redouble all of our efforts to buy and deliver the ventilators so that we can treat the most vulnerable in our hospitals.
“To deliver the masks, the gowns, the other protective equipment to protect those on the frontline in the NHS, but also in care homes and to ramp up testing so that NHS and other key staff can return to the frontline just as soon as possible.”
Under the current rules, all-but-essential shops are closed, along with all bars and restaurants, schools and much of the public transport network.
Citizens are only asked to leave their homes to go to work, if they cannot do it from home, to pick up essential supplies and medicines, for care-giving, or to exercise for an hour a day.
Mr Raab paid tribute to the public for sticking to the rules despite the hot weather over the Easter weekend, but said “we've come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones and we’ve sacrificed too much to ease up now”.
He added: “So please. once again, keep following the guidance to stay home, save lives and protect the NHS. If we let up now the virus will only take full advantage it will spread faster and it will kill more people.
"If we refuse to give in to it, if we keep up this incredible team effort we will beat this virus and we will come through this national test.
“Our plan is working: please stick with it and we will get through this crisis together.”
And the Government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, speaking alongside him, said officials were not at the stage to start discussing when the measures could be relaxed.
He said: “In terms of timing of changes: I think it’s really important that we’re now at a stage when you can begin to see the flattening, we’ll look and see where the peak is and when we are firmly on the other side of it in terms of numbers coming down: only at that stage do you start looking at what measures might be released and how they might be released.
“It would be a complete waste of everything that everyone's had to do until now - and I absolutely understand the difficulties that some of the decisions make - but it would be a waste if we were to rapidly release that and lead to a re-emergence of this.”