The UK is at the point of "maximum risk" in its battle with coronavirus, Boris Johnson said as he acknowledged frustrations over the continuing lockdown but insisted he would not risk a second peak in the disease by relaxing restrictions too quickly.
As the Prime Minister returned to take charge of the Government's response to the coronavirus crisis following his recovery from Covid-19, he said there are signs that the UK is "passing through the peak" of the outbreak and "coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict".
Comparing the disease to a mugger, he said: "This is the moment when we have begun, together, to wrestle it to the floor."
But he said it is also the moment of maximum risk because of the danger that people would look at the "apparent success" and "go easy" on social distancing measures.
It remains the "biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war", he said, and "every day I know that this virus brings new sadness and mourning to households across the land".
More than 20,000 people have already died with the disease in hospitals, with the true death toll including care homes and other settings likely to be far higher.
Speaking from a podium in Downing Street, Mr Johnson acknowledged the pressure to lift some of the draconian restrictions imposed on British people and businesses.
He said: "I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can" but "I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life."