By Siân Jones, Newgate Public Affairs
In today’s Government briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated that the UK’s coronavirus death toll had reached 30,615. Mr Raab reiterated the ‘five tests’ that needed to be met before lockdown restrictions could be eased, and praised the public for their compliance as well as those who had gone the extra mile by volunteering.
He stressed that we were now past the peak, and that the NHS was not overwhelmed. There had been real challenges with PPE and care homes, but our efforts in complying with the lockdown had prevented the death toll rising to even higher levels. The R value was between 0.5 and 0.9, and the number of new cases and deaths was falling.
The Foreign Secretary stated that we were now in a position to start to think about the next phase, and the PM would set out next steps this weekend as well as measures to prevent a second peak. A careful road map was being developed with appropriate measures to be taken at the appropriate time.
At each point, he said, measures would be based on the five tests and scientific advice. Even the smallest of changes would be the point of maximum risk, and could trigger a second peak. Any changes would be carefully monitored and adjusted if necessary.
Concluding his remarks, Mr Raab stressed that there would be no change to the rules today, and that the lockdown must be maintained for now. There would be no ‘jumping the gun’.
Dr Jenny Harries then set out the five tests for adjusting the lockdown and presented some figures setting out the extent of compliance. 92% of people, for example, are avoiding contact with vulnerable adults. 44% of adults in employment are working from home compared with 12% at the same time last year.
There were 86,583 tests in the last day and there had been a ‘technical hitch’ in the lab over the weekend, but testing was now on the rise again. A global comparison showed that the UK had the second highest number of deaths after the US, but Dr Harries stated that there were different ways of measuring the deaths in different countries.
Asked in Q&A about Nicola Sturgeon’s stated plans to maintain the lockdown for the time being, Mr Raab stated that the PM was committed to a UK-wide approach but based on the circumstances of each nation. Any decisions would be, as always, ‘led by the science’. Asked about the vulnerabilities of ethnic minorities to COVID-19 and whether BAME people should be shielding, Mr Raab stated that the Government was seeking scientific advice from Public Health England on the matter and would take decisions based on that.