Boris Johnson signals cautious approach to easing coronavirus lockdown
Boris Johnson has signalled he will take a cautious approach to easing the coronavirus lockdown measures amid fears of a second deadly wave of infections.
The Prime Minister is “very concerned” about another peak in Covid-19 cases if restrictions are relaxed too rapidly, a Downing Street source told the PA news agency.
Mr Johnson’s fears emerged as the Government came under further pressure to detail plans to exit from the strict measures, which Number 10 suggested could happen gradually.
Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford warned that Wales could act independently from the rest of the UK if there is not a consensus at the next three-week review.
And his Scottish counterpart, Nicola Sturgeon, stressed that she would not “rush” into moves which could lead to a resurgence of the virus.
But there seemed to be some unity across the political spectrum on not acting too hastily, with a Number 10 source telling PA: “(The) PM is very concerned about a second peak if we lift the restrictions too soon.”
Mr Johnson is currently not doing government work at his Chequers country retreat while recovering from his time in intensive care with the disease, according to his official spokesman.
But the PM has spoken to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who continues to deputise for him, and senior members of his Downing Street team while receiving updates on the coronavirus response.
“The big concern is a second peak,” the spokesman said.
“That is what ultimately will do the most damage to health and the most damage to the economy.”
The spokesman suggested that restrictions could be modified rather than lifted entirely, adding: “If you move too quickly, lifting the social distancing measures wholesale, then that could lead to the virus spreading exponentially again.”
Mr Drakeford said he believes a UK-wide agreement would be ideal when the lockdown is scheduled to be reviewed by May 7.
But the Labour politician added: “If we can’t secure it and we need to make decisions for ourselves, that is, of course, what we will do.”
SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said she would outline the key factors to guide the process by the end of the week.
“We are simply not yet in position to take those decisions in a properly informed way and I will not rush to do anything that could risk a resurgence of this virus, because to do that would risk overwhelming the National Health Service and it would put many more lives at risk,” she added.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer continued to press the Government on forming a strategy to eventually ease the lockdown measures.
He was among the opposition leaders to receive a “constructive” telephone briefing from Mr Raab, according to the Labour leader’s spokesman.
“Keir Starmer reiterated his support for the Government’s decision to extend the lockdown, but asked what planning was being put in place for when the restrictions are lifted,” the spokesman added.
Sir Keir was also said to have pressed Mr Raab on the shortage of protective personal equipment for key workers and whether the Government would hit its target of 100,000 tests by the end of the month.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat acting co-leader Sir Ed Davey were also understood to have been briefed during the call.