The Government has set out what needs to happen before it will consider lifting the coronavirus lockdown.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ministers and scientists needed to be satisfied of five things before they would think about relaxing rules.
This is what they are looking for:
– Protect the NHS’s ability to cope and be confident that the NHS is able to provide sufficient critical care across the UK
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in Great Britain fell by 3% in the 24 hours to Thursday evening, Government scientists said.
Graphs presented at the daily briefing showed a decrease in the number of patients in hotspot areas such as London and the Midlands.
– See a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates to be confident the UK is beyond the peak
The number of new deaths confirmed in hospitals on Thursday was 861, bringing the total to 13,729, according to the Department of Health.
Last Friday, 980 new deaths were added to the national total, the biggest increase in a single day.
– Reliable data from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) showing rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board
Government scientists now believe that people who catch Covid-19 are passing it on to fewer than one person.
The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Sage looked very carefully at all of the evidence and is of the opinion that it is highly likely that the R is below one – the transmission force of the virus is below one, meaning that one person will, on average, be infecting fewer than one other person.
“That’s an important change. It means in the community it’s likely that the virus and the epidemic is now shrinking.”
– Confident that testing capacity and PPE are in hand with supply able to meet future demand
Concerns have been raised about provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing for frontline NHS staff.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government had now identified 27 NHS workers who had died after contracting coronavirus, however the true total is thought to be far greater.
The PA news agency has confirmed the deaths of at least 40 frontline NHS workers during the pandemic.
– Confident that any adjustments to the current measures would not risk a second peak in infections which would overwhelm the NHS
Mr Raab said a second peak would lead to a second lockdown, increasing the economic damage of the pandemic.
He explained: “It’s not a trade-off here, if we get a second peak it’s not just damaging for people’s health and public safety, we will also end up back in a second lockdown which will prolong the economic risks,” he said.
“So we are taking the right decision at the right time, as we have always said.”
Mr Raab said the Government would look to adjust the measures to make them “as effective as possible in protecting public health whilst allowing some economic and social activity to resume” when officials are confident on the five points.
He said: “But we will only do it when the evidence demonstrates that it is safe to do it.
“It could involve relaxing measures in some areas while strengthening measures in other areas.”