The government is to set out a “road map” for the easing of lockdown restrictions after Boris Johnson confirms the UK has passed the peak of infections.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced an extension to restrictions on Thursday (16 Apr), stating they will remain in place for another three weeks until 7 May.
When will lockdown be reviewed?
The government will review lockdown restrictions on 7 May, three weeks after the last extension was announced.
Mr Johnson said on Thursday (30 Apr) that the UK had passed the peak of infections and was on the downward slope, with scientist estimating England’s daily hospital death toll peaked around 8 April and has since been streadily falling.
Although there are still some suggestions that deaths in care homes may still be increasing.
How will lockdown eventually be lifted?
Details of exactly how lockdown restrictions will eventually be lifted still remain unclear, with the government refusing to outline its "exit strategy".
The government's scientific advisors are expected to meet this week to review the latest figures, but the Foreign Secretary stressed it is crucial the UK does “not take our eye of the ball” with regards to social distancing.
The World Health Organisation said lockdown restrictions should be lifted slowly and not “all at once” to avoid a resurgence of the virus, and only if appropriate measures are in place.
The Government said it first needs to be satisfied of five things before considering it safe to adjust the current measures.
– Protect the NHS’s ability to cope and be confident that the NHS is able to provide sufficient critical care across the UK
– A sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates to be confident the UK is beyond the peak
– Reliable data from Government scientific advisers showing rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board
– Confidence that testing capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) are in hand with “supply able to meet future demand”
– Confidence that any adjustments to the current measures would not risk a second peak in infections.
Mr Johnson said: “When we are sure that this first phase is over and that we are meeting our five tests: deaths falling, NHS protected, rate of infection down, really sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE, avoiding a second peak, then that will be the time to move on to the second phase in which we continue to suppress the disease and keep the reproduction rate – the R rate – down, but begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions and one-by-one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.
“And in that process, difficult judgments will be made and we simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.”
Have the restrictions been effective?
There are signs that the rate of infection in the UK is starting to slow since the lockdown was imposed, according to data from a specially designed coronavirus symptom tracker app.
While the number of deaths from the virus has been doubling every few days, the number of confirmed cases and people being admitted to hospital for treatment has been slowing.
Scientists say the daily total of deaths will soon follow suit, and should start to fall if social distancing continues.
Speaking at a daily press briefing on Monday (27 Apr), Mr Johnson said the UK is making progres in its battle against the virus, with “fewer hospital admissions, fewer Covid patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak”.
He said: "Thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere.
"And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide."
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