Britain braces for possible coronavirus lockdown extension until May

9 April 2020, 04:01

Brits will be told lockdown measures will continue for at least another three weeks
Brits will be told lockdown measures will continue for at least another three weeks. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Brits will be told to prepare for at least another three weeks in Covid-19 lockdown later as ministers plan to urge the public not to break Government guidance over the Easter weekend.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will chair a coronavirus emergency committee Cobra meeting later today where ministers are expected to discuss lockdown measures with leaders of the devolved nations.

But with the Covid-19 death toll seeing a rise on Wednesday of to its highest daily total so far 938, and the Prime Minister still in hospital, there seems little chance of restrictions being lifted.

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The lockdown measures will face a tough test over the weekend with temperatures set to reach 25C in some parts of the country.

The Times newspaper reported political leaders from across the UK will come together to launch a Stay at Home This Easter campaign after the meeting.

Providing an update on Mr Johnson, a Downing Street spokeswoman said on Wednesday night: "The Prime Minister continues to make steady progress. He remains in intensive care."

No 10 earlier said the PM was no longer working while following the advice of doctors, and receiving just the "standard oxygen treatment" and "breathing without any other assistance".

The PM's three-week review into the lockdown measures had been due on Monday, but Downing Street is now saying it will be "on or around" that day, while legislation designed to assist with the containment must also be reviewed at least once every 21 days - with the first due to be carried out by April 16 at the latest.

Mr Sunak said the evidence to inform any review "will only be available next week".

A senior government source told the Sun newspaper: “Nobody is going to argue about extending the lockdown into May.

“Look at where the peak is now expected.

"It’s becoming obvious that’s where we’re heading.

“It would be seriously negligent not to do that.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to "speculate" about the future of the lockdown, instead confirming there would be a review of the measures "in and around three weeks" after they started.

Deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean, addressing the same question, said she suspected "simple strategies might well turn out to be the best to use".

Though the death toll rose, Prof McLean said there was "good news" in the daily number of new cases, which is a better indicator of whether distancing measures are working than fatalities.

"This count of new cases in the UK, day by day over the last few weeks, is not accelerating out of control," she said.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said Britons have responded "really well" to the measures but told ITV's Peston: "It's not a case of just throwing that away but in making sure, as we have done every step of the way in our plan, we listen to our experts, we come to a judgment and more of that will be discussed (on Thursday)."

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford earlier said the lockdown will not end in Wales next week, insisting "we will not throw away the gains" by "abandoning our efforts just as they begin to bear fruit".

In Northern Ireland, Stormont minister Deirdre Hargey indicated there will be no relaxation of restrictions there at next week's review.

NHS England's national medical director Professor Stephen Powis warned that "this is not the time to become complacent", however.

"We are beginning to see the benefits, I believe (of following Government measures), but the really critical thing, I believe, is that we have to continue following instructions, we have to continue following social distancing, because if we don't, the virus will start to spread again," he said.

And World Health Organisation regional director Dr Hans Kluge said any easing of restrictions required "very careful consideration" as he warned progress in Europe remained "extremely fragile".