Lockdown measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in the UK will be extended for at least three more weeks.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still recovering from the virus, confirmed the measures would remain during Thursday’s (April 16) daily Downing Street briefing.
Mr Raab said relaxing the lockdown would risk a significant increase in the spread of coronavirus.
Confirming the extension, he said: “Earlier today I chaired meetings of the Cabinet and Cobra to consider the advice from Sage on the impact of the existing social distancing measures.
“There are indications that the measures we have put in place have been successful in slowing down the spread of this virus. But Sage also say that is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.”
The rate of infection - the R0 value - was ‘almost certainly below one in the community’, meaning infected people were passing the disease on to fewer than one other person on average.
“But overall we still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he told the daily Downing Street news conference.
Mr Raab said there were still ‘issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and in care homes’.
He added: “The very clear advice we received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.
“That would threaten a second peak of the virus and substantially increase the number of deaths.
“It would undo the progress we have made to date and as a result would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures.”
The advice was that relaxing any of the measures would risk damage to public health and the economy, he said.
“Based on this advice, which we have very carefully considered, the Government has decided that the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks.”