James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Coronavirus lockdown extended by three weeks until at least May 7
16 April 2020, 17:05
Britain’s coronavirus lockdown has been extended for at least another three weeks, Dominic Raab has confirmed.
At the government’s daily press briefing, the foreign secretary said the current measures will stay in place until May 7, when a further review would be required by law.
He said any adjustments to the current lockdown would threaten a second peak of the virus, and would risk further damage to public health and the economy.
Acknowledging that people were looking for clarity, Mr Raab said several things would need to change before measures could be relaxed, such as ensuring space in hospitals, seeing a consistent fall in the number of daily deaths, and plenty of PPE.
Data also needs to show the infection rate is decreasing, he added.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "But if we rushed now, we would risk all the progress that has been made.
"And that could lead to a second outbreak, and a second lockdown."
Mr Raab said relaxing the lockdown would risk a significant increase in the spread of coronavirus.
Confirming an extension of the measures for at least three weeks, he said: "Earlier today I chaired meetings of the Cabinet and Cobra to consider the advice from Sage on the impact of the existing social distancing measures.
"There are indications that the measures we have put in place have been successful in slowing down the spread of this virus. But Sage also say that is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing."
The rate of infection - the R0 value - was "almost certainly below one in the community", meaning infected people were passing the disease on to fewer than one other person on average.
"But overall we still don't have the infection rate down as far as we need to," he told the daily Downing Street news conference.
The announcement came after Mr Raab held a Cobra meeting on Thursday that agreed on the extension to the lockdown, which began on March 23.
Wales' First Minister said a three-week lockdown extension across the UK would avoid "throwing away all the sacrifices we have made" in the fight against coronavirus.
Mr Drakeford said the decision not to relax lockdown measures was taken as it was too early to "change course" in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said: "Earlier this afternoon, I, along with the first ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland attended the UK Government's Cobra meeting.
"We each confirmed our decisions that the current restrictions on movement to protect the NHS and so to save lives should continue for another three weeks.
"This is based on expert scientific analysis of the latest data on the coronavirus outbreak across the UK."
Mr Drakeford said while the previous three weeks of lockdown had been "very difficult for many people", it was too early for the UK to change course despite positive signs in infection rates.
He added: "Many more lives are at stake, and too many families have already lost loved ones.
"Nevertheless, the decision to extend the lockdown is not one that has been taken lightly.
"But I am clear that we cannot risk throwing away all the sacrifices we have made here in Wales over the last few weeks by lifting the restrictions too soon.
“That could mean more deaths and, in the long run, even greater impact on people's jobs and livelihoods.
"Our approach will continue to be driven by the best information and the best advice we can secure.
"We will go on taking the decisions that are right for Wales, and at the right time so that together we go on protecting our NHS and so to save lives."Britain’s death toll has now reached 13,729, up 861 from 12,868 on Wednesday.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth backed the three-week extension, saying it was "reasonable".
Earlier on Thursday, he said: "We would expect the lockdown to continue, we would support that, I actually called for a lockdown before the Government introduced one.
"But we also want more details from the Government about what happens next.
"I mean, last night the junior health minister Nadine Dorries was complaining on Twitter saying that people shouldn't be asking about an exit strategy because there's no exit strategy until we get a vaccine.
"Well that could be 18 months away so if the Government are saying we're in lockdown for 18 months they probably need to tell us.
"And I would argue that the best way to come out of lockdown or to manage a way out of lockdown is to move to a testing and contact-tracing strategy."
According to the Financial Times, it is hoped that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work by May 7.
He will then be able to work on devising the country’s exit strategy on how and when to return to normal.
Northern Ireland’s lockdown has already been extended until May 9, First Minister Arlene Foster said on Wednesday.
The Republic of Ireland’s lockdown is set to last until at least May 5.