The UK Government will set out a comprehensive plan next week on reopening schools and restarting the economy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his first briefing since his return to work.
The Prime Minister said the UK was past the peak of the outbreak and on the downward slope. However, he stressed the country must not risk a second spike of the virus.
Johnson emphasised the need to ensure that transmission of the COVID-19 virus is suppressed. “Nothing we do should lift the 'R', or reproduction rate, back above one,” he said.
The Prime Minister declared that falling numbers of COVID hospital and a reduction in the number of patients in ICU meant that the UK had passed the peak in infections. He said: “We are past the peak and we are on the downward slope.”
Johnson said the UK had avoided an “uncontrollable and catastrophic” epidemic that could have caused 500,000 deaths and that at no stage had the NHS been overwhelmed.
The Prime Minister said that until work on developing a vaccine pays off, the UK would have to devise ways of living and working that reduce the risk of transmission.
“We will have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity, so I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, how we can get our children back to school, back into childcare, and how we can travel to work and how we can make life in the workplace safer. In short how we can continue to suppress the disease and at the same time re-start the economy.”
The Prime Minister stated that the government has set five tests that must satisfy before a plan to start relaxing the lockdown is put into action.
“There will be five key tests that we must satisfy before we can put that plan into action
“To avoid that disaster our fifth and final test is that nothing as I say we do should lift the R or the reproduction rate of that disease back above one. Let me just emphasise that keeping the ‘R’ down is going to be absolutely vital to our recovery, keeping the reproduction rate of the disease down, and we can only do it by our collective discipline and working together.”
When questioned by reporters, the Prime Minister said that facemasks and face coverings could be “useful” both for epidemiological reasons, and also to give people confidence to go back to work.
As of 30 April, there have been 26,711 deaths in UK hospitals and the wider community.
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