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Have the Government’s five key lockdown tests been met?

The PA news agency looks at what progress has been made in meeting the targets to adjust the lockdown.

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Social distancing and other coronavirus precautions have been introduced at shops (PA)

Social distancing and other coronavirus precautions have been introduced at shops (PA)

Social distancing and other coronavirus precautions have been introduced at shops (PA)

Britain has yet to meet the five tests set out by the Government which it says must be reached before the lockdown measures can be adjusted, Downing Street has said.

But what progress has been made? And how far off is Britain from the targets?

Test 1. The NHS has the capacity to provide critical care right across the UK

The first test is whether Britain has the capacity to look after those seriously ill with coronavirus – which can be measured by spare beds in intensive care.

Hospitals have not been overwhelmed by patients so far in the pandemic, and in some places have been aided by the opening of the new NHS Nightingales.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that there were 3,190 spare critical care beds in the health service, and that in most parts of the country, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus is beginning to fall.

This test, therefore, appears to have been met.

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The number of people eligible for tests has been widened in recent days (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The number of people eligible for tests has been widened in recent days (Gareth Fuller/PA)

PA

The number of people eligible for tests has been widened in recent days (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Test 2. A sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from coronavirus

Scientists estimate that England’s daily hospital death toll peaked around April 8, and it has been very steadily falling since.

However, the picture is less clear when deaths in the community are included, with some suggestions that deaths in care homes may still be increasing.

More data is needed to be clear whether this test has been met.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Test 3. The rate of infection decreased to manageable levels across the board

The ‘R’ value – or infection rate – is now thought to be somewhere between 0.5 and 1, meaning that each person infected with the virus passes it on to less than one other person.

This in turn means the total number of cases is falling. But, if R rises above 1, there could be another exponential rise in infections.

It is likely this test has been met across the board, but the Government will be extremely anxious to ensure the rate of infection does not rise again.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Test 4. Operational challenges including testing and PPE are in hand with supply able to meet future demand

The Government remains a long way off its target of testing 100,000 people a day by the end of the month, with just 37,024 tests carried out on Sunday – though the number is increasing daily.

And while more than a billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been distributed, concerns over shortages remain – particularly among care home staff.

Given the global spread of the disease, operational challenges in sourcing PPE may continue for some time. So far, this test does not appear to have been met.

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Concerns have been raised over medical and care home staff facing shortages of some items of PPE (Jacob King/PA)

Concerns have been raised over medical and care home staff facing shortages of some items of PPE (Jacob King/PA)

PA

Concerns have been raised over medical and care home staff facing shortages of some items of PPE (Jacob King/PA)

Test 5. Confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that he would not risk a second peak in the disease by relaxing restrictions too quickly.

But Downing Street came in for questioning a day later when it published its “five tests” document with altered wording, leading to speculation the Government is preparing to ease the lockdown restrictions.

Rather than stating that ministers had to be confident an adjustment would not “risk a second peak of infections”, the wording was changed to say no weakening of restrictions would be made that would risk a second peak that “overwhelms the NHS”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said during the Number 10 press conference on Tuesday that the NHS had coped with the first peak of infections, which is thought to have occurred around Easter.

The Government’s scientific advisers are presenting a series of options to ministers about easing lockdown measures, a combination of which would keep the R value below 1.

Ministers could use the new advice issued to them, along with the altered wording, to lift a number of the social distancing measures in place and help get Britain back to work.

PA