Coronavirus: Dominic Raab rejects calls for lifting lockdown measures early

26 April 2020, 11:38

Dominic Raab said the coronavirus outbreak is at a "delicate and dangerous" stage
Dominic Raab said the coronavirus outbreak is at a "delicate and dangerous" stage. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has rejected calls for lifting lockdown measures early, warning that we are still at a "delicate and dangerous" stage of the coronavirus outbreak.

The secretary of state's comments come amid mounting pressure on the government from senior Tories who are calling for social distancing rules to be relaxed.

There is increasing concern among those opponents that the Covid-19 lockdown measures are damaging the economy.

However, Mr Raab stressed ministers would proceed "cautiously" in order to avoid a second peak in cases and deaths.

"We are at a delicate and dangerous stage," he told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"We need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed, which is why we are proceeding very cautiously and we are sticking to the scientific advice with the social distancing measures at this time, whilst doing all the homework to make sure that we are prepared in due course for the next phase."

The foreign secretary has been deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson - who is set to return to work at Downing Street on Monday - while the UK leader recovers from coronavirus.

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Mr Raab dismissed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's call for the government to set out an "exit strategy" explaining how the lockdown could eventually be lifted.

"Until we can be confident, based on the scientific advice, that we are making sure-footed steps going forward that protect life, but also preserve our way of life, frankly it is not responsible to start speculating about the individual measures," he said.

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The 46-year-old also commented on the condition of Mr Johnson, who is expected to return to work tomorrow.

"He is in good spirits. He is raring to go. He is looking forward to getting back at the reins on Monday," he said.

The foreign secretary confirmed the government is considering checking people who arrive in the UK via sea ports and airports.

Reports in The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday said officials were drawing up plans for passengers to be quarantined for 14 days after entering the country.

Previously, ministers have rejected the approach, saying it would have little impact given the low numbers coming into the UK and the rate of community transmission in the country.

However, Mr Raab said: "We have continually, throughout, tested this with the scientists and with the chief medical officer to make sure that as the evidence changes we are able to take any new measures that are necessary.

"So that is something that we will be looking at. It could include the testing of people coming in. It could include social distancing."

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