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"What you are doing is working"

16 April 2020

By Tim Le Couilliard, Senior Executive

Tonight, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab announced that the government had made the decision to extend the lockdown, following advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Raab cited data that shows that the lockdown has indeed had its desired effect and has slowed the spread of the outbreak. He noted, however, that the data, according to SAGE, is a ‘mixed picture’ and that in some settings the infection will, and continues to be, on the rise. Statistically, he said that the r-value is now “almost certainly” below 1 across the community meaning that every person who is infected, on average, infects fewer than one other person.  Despite this, it is SAGE’s view that the country does not have the infection rate as low as needed.

As a result, Raab announced that “any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus”. Any ease now would undo the progress to date and would require a longer period of social distancing measures, which the government has estimated would do more damage to the economy over a longer period. Therefore, none of the measures will be relaxed yet – with current restrictions remaining in place for at least the next three weeks (when the next review is required by law).

Raab went on to set out a five-part criteria that the government would have to be satisfied with before a decision was made to loosen the lockdown:

  1. Be sure of the NHS’s ability to cope and be confident that it can provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK;
  2. A sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate from coronavirus to be certain the peak has passed;
  3. Reliable data from SAGE that shows that the rate of infection is at a ‘manageable’ level across the board;
  4. Be confident that supplies of essentials such as PPE are assured and able to meet future demand;
  5. And that any adjustments would not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.

On what changes to the lockdown could look like, Raab did say that the changes to the measures could involve relaxation in some areas while tightening them in others, guided by the scientific advice. Raab was firm not to commit to a date and to warn people off prejudging the evidence that SAGE will have in the future.

The Foreign Secretary noted the comparisons to other countries and stated that whilst the UK would learn from the steps and experiences taken abroad, ultimately, the government will “do what is right for the British people based on the advice of British experts on the ground here in the UK. We will make the decisions at the right time, for this country.”

Raab also reiterated the government promise that ‘soon’ there will be the capacity to test 100,000 people a day. Government statistics show that there were 18,665 tests taken today.