The UK is past the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and the government will next week unveil plans to phase the country out of lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday (30 April).
“We are past the peak, and we are on the downward slope,” said Johnson, who returned to full-time work this week after recovering from being seriously ill with coronavirus and following the birth of his son.
Johnson promised that ministers would detail a “comprehensive plan” next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.
However, officials have played down the prospect of a swift easing of the, and Johnson warned that “it is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second and even bigger mountain”.
The government’s key target is to continue reducing the reproduction rate of the disease, which currently stands below 1 new infection for every person infected.
The UK plan is likely to see people required to use face coverings if they wish to return to work.
Johnson added that the plan will not commit the government to specific dates when relaxing individual restrictions.
The government has increased testing, performing 81,000 coronavirus tests on Wednesday, though that is still significantly short of its self-imposed target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April
The UK now has, at 26,771, the second-highest death toll in Europe from coronavirus after the government combined statistics for deaths in care homes with those in hospitals.
While the infection rate among the general population appears to be under control and the rate of hospital admissions is steadily falling, fatality rates in care homes are increasing.
The government has been criticised for imposing lockdown conditions two weeks later than continental Europea, after toying with a ‘herd immunity’ strategy, and for struggling to source sufficient personal protective equipment for health workers.
However, Johnson defended his handling of the pandemic, commenting that “we’re learning lessons every day – but I do think that broadly speaking, we did the right thing at the right time.”
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]