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The government relaxes the lockdown – with caveats

28 May 2020

By Simon Gentry, Newgate Public Affairs

The Prime Minister led today’s government press conference which focussed on the next stages of the lifting of the lockdown.  Before discussing the lockdown, the Prime Minister announced that just under 120,000 tests were conducted yesterday.  He added that there has been an 11% decline in the number of people in hospital since this time last week.  Sadly 377 people died in last 24 hours.

Turning to the lockdown, Mr Johnson went through the 5 tests that the government was using to judge whether the lockdown could be eased.  He noted that good progress is being made against all five and that infections, hospitalisations and deaths are all falling.  He said that all parts of the UK are moving in the right direction, but at different speeds.  He repeated that the government would not throw away the gains made by all of us over the last two months.

He confirmed that schools in England can re-open on Monday.  Beginning with those in early years and then extending to some senior pupils who face exams next year, students will be able to return to the classroom and meet their teachers.  He then announced that shops can begin to open from next week, but only if they are ‘Covid-compliant’ and enforce social distancing.  In what many people will see as a particularly welcome change he announced that groups of six can now meet in private outdoor spaces such as gardens, but must remain socially distant if they do not live together.  He repeated that we must all continue efforts to control the virus. 

He noted that changes to the lockdown can be managed safely if people stay alert.  He acknowledges that there are inconsistencies and anomalies in the guidance but said these are unavoidable given the enemy the country is fighting.  He also said that the government won’t get everything right first time, but we will get there.

Finally, he said that in the weeks ahead the government may be able to do more to ease the lockdown and restart the economy.  If progress slows, or there are outbreaks, the lockdown will be re-imposed to prevent a second peak and protect the NHS.

The ‘Track and Trace’ system launched today.  As expected there have been glitches and niggles as the 25,000 new tracers began their new jobs, but the government is optimistic that these will be overcome in the days ahead.