Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says UK is past the peak of outbreak
- 2 hours ago
PM Boris Johnson said he will set out a “comprehensive plan” next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.
He said the UK was “past the peak” of the virus outbreak, but stressed the country must not “risk a second spike”.
Mr Johnson said face masks will be “useful” as part of the strategy for coming out of lockdown.
Some 26,771 people have now died with the virus in the UK, a rise of 674.
The prime minister said that “we can now see the sunlight”, but he insisted that to avoid the “disaster” of a second peak the UK must keep the R rate – the number of people to which one infected person will pass the virus – below one.
More than 81,000 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, still short of the Downing Street’s target of 100,000 by the end of April. Mr Johnson insisted: “We’re massively ramping up testing.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, told BBC One’s Question Time that the government was “quite likely to get very close to or meet” the target when the figures for the final day of April are announced on Friday.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to outline a plan next week as “a step in the right direction”.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg asked at what level the reproduction rate should be before the government would be “comfortable easing restrictions”.
The government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, replied: “We are absolutely confident that the wrong answer is anything over one.”
He explained that as soon as the R rises above one you “restart exponential growth” and “sooner or later” the NHS would be at the risk of being overwhelmed. The current rate is thought to be between 0.6 and 0.9 across the country.
Mr Johnson said that keeping the reproduction rate down “is going to be absolutely vital to our recovery”.
The government has set out five tests that must be met before lockdown restrictions can be eased, including:
- making sure the NHS can cope
- a “sustained and consistent” fall in the daily death rate
- rate of infection decreasing to “manageable levels”
- ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand
- and being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak “that overwhelms the NHS”