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Coronavirus lockdown changes will be ‘modest’ and ‘small’ – Raab

Written by on 07/05/2020

The public have been told not to expect widespread changes to the coronavirus lockdown in England when Boris Johnson addresses the nation this weekend.

Speaking at the daily COVID-19 briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said any short term changes to the measures will be “modest, small, incremental and very carefully monitored”.

In response to a question from Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby, he added: “If we find in the future the R level [the rate of infection] goes back up or that people aren’t following the rules, we must have the ability then to put back measures in place.”

Johnson has said the UK is at the forefront of vaccine research, pledging to donate £744m to the global coronavirus response.

Image: Boris Johnson will address the nation on Sunday evening

Mr Raab also said the existing rules would still apply over the coming bank holiday weekend.

He added: “For the moment it is really important, particularly as people look towards a warm bank holiday weekend, that we continue to follow the guidance in place at this time.”

More than 30,000 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, with the UK having the highest recorded death toll in Europe.

The lockdown was introduced on 23 March to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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By law it must be reviewed every three weeks, with the latest deadline falling on Thursday.

The prime minister will set out how some of the measures will be eased on Sunday evening, with some changes potentially taking effect as early as Monday.

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But people have been warned not to expect a widespread relaxation of the rules, with Downing Street insisting that the alterations will be “very limited”.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the PM would use “maximum caution” when starting to ease some of the strict social distancing measures.

“We are at a critical moment in the fight against the virus and we will not do anything that risks the progress the British public has made,” he told journalists earlier on Thursday.

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As part of the changes, the PM is preparing to amend the “stay at home” slogan and relax the one exercise a day limit.

With summer approaching, he may give the go-ahead to picnics, trips to the park and outings in the countryside.

But English primary schools are unlikely to re-open until the end of May, secondary schools not before the end of June and it could be the end of August before pubs and restaurants open their doors again.

The UK government has stressed that it wants all parts of the UK to move together in easing the lockdown.

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But leaders of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to take their own decisions and could decide to move at a different pace.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the lockdown “must be extended” in Scotland and warned that easing any restrictions would be “very, very risky”.

The Welsh government has said that speculation on how lockdown measures could be lifted in England risks sending “mixed messages” to people in other parts of the UK.

In a statement, it stressed that First Minister Mark Drakeford would announce the outcome of the Welsh cabinet’s discussions on the lockdown “in due course”.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party supported a continuation of the lockdown and urged people to stick to the rules over the weekend.

“The health and safety of the nation has to come first and therefore we cannot lift these restrictions until we’re clear that the infection is under control,” he said.

Sir Keir added: “Until it changes, we must follow it and it’s very clear that that’s important for this weekend.”

Asked if he thought there had been mixed messages from the government, Sir Keir said: “There needs to be absolute clarity that we all must follow the rules until lockdown is lifted.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t discuss what comes next but we’ve got to follow those rules.”

Acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said there were “serious questions about the consequences of any significant relaxation” of the lockdown.

“For the public to have confidence in the government’s plan for relaxing lockdown, they must be open and transparent,” he said.

“The evidence used to make these decisions must be published and available to all for proper scrutiny.”

 Sky News

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