In Brief

Reaction: Raab extends coronavirus lockdown

Calls for clarity on exit strategy as government says restrictions could last into June

Dominic Raab has announced that lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for “at least” another three weeks and could last into June.

The foreign secretary told the daily briefing that a review had concluded that relaxing the measures now would risk damaging public health and the economy.

Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.

“If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made.”

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Raab has set five tests that would have to be met for the restrictions to be relaxed. They are, says The Times: “ensuring that the NHS can cope across Britain; a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate; evidence that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels; enough testing and protective equipment to meet demand; and no risk of a second peak large enough to overwhelm the NHS”.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, welcomed the move. “I fully support the government’s decision to extend the lockdown,” he said. 

‪“The priority now must be to ensure we see a ramp-up in testing, that staff get the PPE they desperately need, and that more is done to protect our care homes from the virus. We also need clarity about what plans are being put in place to lift the lockdown when the time is right.”

The Guardian said the extension was “the right call” but added that: “it is time to level up about tough choices facing an exit strategy”. The Independent also asks for greater clarity, complaining that the government “seems to believe that merely talking about modest relaxation of the rules will lead to some sort of stampede for the sunny beaches”.

James Rubin, who chairs the behavioural science committee of Sage, joined the calls for more information on how the UK might leave the lockdown. He told MPs: “People need to understand, and have a right to understand, what the plan is.”

Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, a government adviser, demanded greater urgency. He said: “I would like to see action accelerated, and real progress made. There needs to be more coordination.”

However, a survey by the Royal Society of Arts has found that just 9% of Britons want life to return to “normal” after the coronavirus outbreak is over, with people noting positive changes during the lockdown, including cleaner air, more wildlife and stronger communities.

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