The government has promised more detail in the coming days around its strategy for when and how to facilitate the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
Ministers are supposed to set out more information by the end of the week after Boris Johnson faced requests to name a strategy and in his first statement since returning to work, the Prime Minister announced the government would be announcing much more about this in the coming days.
He gave little detail and neither did No 10, but his spokesperson gave a few further hints about the nature of the information that might be coming shortly. The spokesperson further stated any modification to the lockdown would mean refining it, not axing it altogether and emphasised it could be tightened in some areas and relaxed in others.
The No 10 spokesperson continued that the next set of documents and evidence from the government’s scientific advisors, SAGE, would be published this week.
SAGE’s advice is a critical tool in determining whether the United Kingdom has met the government’s five tests before lockdown can be relaxed, and they are that the NHS can cope, that there must be a continued fall in deaths, that new infections are plummeting enough, sufficient testing and PPE as well as there being no chance of a second peak.
SAGE’s minutes are not being published in full, provoking a dispute over the lack of clarity at the core of government. Nevertheless, the government is also anticipating a report from the Office for National Statistics on the infection rate in early May, this is set to be published in full.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson stated that the key is clearly to have satisfied the five tests and to be certain that in refining the social distancing measures we won’t be doing anything that could lead to a second peak.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said there could be an easing in some regions and toughening in other regions but that we would not be immediately returning to life as we once knew it.
People will have to acclimatise to what Dominic Raab called a new normal.
The law says the UK lockdown must be examined by May 7. Measures could be eased, strengthened or not altered at all, and asked when the changes might be revealed, a No 10 spokesperson stated that May 7 was the time where they’re expected to have conducted the review.
It’s understood that it will be made transparent by the end of the week how ministers will assess the ability to move into the second phase.
The Prime Minister returned to Downing Street three weeks after being taken to hospital and it’s understood that his fiancee Carrie Symonds is back living with him at their No 11 Downing Street flat after they spent weeks apart with symptoms.
They were reunited at the Prime Minister’s country retreat Chequers about two weeks ago and he’s now back full time, and in terms of obligations and responsibilities, he will be doing all of those.
Boris Johnson is supposed to chair Cabinet this week, but the plan for PMQs is not yet transparent.
He’s been under extreme pressure from Tory MPs to set out how the lockdown will be eased to prop up the economy, while still protecting lives, but Boris Johnson indicated that it would be a creeping process and promised the best possible transparency with attempts to seek consensus across party lines.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has been invited for a briefing with the Prime Minister and medical chiefs next week, followed by more briefing with other opposition leaders next week.
And more Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) participants will be named in the coming days, though only if they’re happy to be identified.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “This is to safeguard the personal security for the individuals and to protect them from lobbying which may hinder their ability to give impartial advice.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and everyone who works in government will take part in a minute’s silence for NHS staff, carers and key workers who’ve died of coronavirus on the frontline.
Mr Johnson said: “When we are sure that this first phase is over and that we are meeting our five tests… then that will be the time to move on to the second phase.
“In which we continue to suppress the disease and keep the reproduction rate down, but begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions and one by one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.
“And in that process, difficult judgments will be made.
“We simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly, the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.”
However, COVID 19 could reconstruct our social and economic model forever because it’s such a devastating virus, and the nature of it is deadly and none of us has any idea when this virus will be over and primarily experts don’t have a clue either.
All we do know is that it’s going to be baby steps at first but if the lockdown is lifted too quickly we’ll be back to square one, but then if we wait for a vaccine to be proven to work, what on earth will happen to our economy?