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Foreign Secretary extends lockdown for additional three weeks

17 April 2020

Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has announced that the UK is under another three week lockdown in a bid to delay the impact of COVID-19.

He made the announcement during a daily press briefing on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raab also stated that the government is dramatically expanding NHS capacity, in terms of the numbers of beds, key staff and life-saving equipment on the front-line.

He also reiterated the importance of staying at home in a bid to deny Coronavirus the opportunity to spread, to protect the NHS and save lives.

Raab said: "Earlier today, I chaired meetings of the Cabinet and COBR 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 the virus.

"But, SAGE also say that it is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.

"SAGE assess that the rate of infection, or the R value, is almost certainly below 1 in the community.

"That means that on average each infected person is, in turn, infecting less than one other person. But, overall, we still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to.

"As in other countries, we have issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes.

"In sum, the very clear advice we have 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 made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures. So early relaxation would do more damage to the economy over a longer period.

"I want to be clear about this. The advice from SAGE is that relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy.

"But based on this advice, the Government has determined that current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks."

Protecting the NHS

Raab said that before the government will consider it safe to adjust any of the current measures, there were five specific criteria of which the government will need to be satisfied: 

  • Protecting the NHS’s ability to cope
  • Seeing a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from Coronavirus so the government is confident that we have moved beyond the peak
  • A need for reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board
  • Being confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand
  • Being confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.

Raab concluded: "The worst thing we could do now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of the virus to hit the NHS and hit the British people.

"It would be the worst outcome, not just for public health, but for the economy and for our country as a whole.

"So, the current restrictions will remain in place.

"The government will continue to monitor the data on the impact of the virus.

"We will soon be able to test 100,000 people every day. That will give us greater understanding of the scope of infection across the country. It will also help us plan how to change the measures when we are ready to.

"Now is not the moment to give the Coronavirus a second chance. Let’s stick together, let’s see this through, and let’s defeat the Coronavirus for good."