Addressing the nation tonight, the Prime Minister will relax some measures to open garden centres and give people more freedom to exercise. But plans for a larger scale lifting have been put on hold after experts warned that Britain was still in the virus danger zone. Mr Johnson will urge the public to show “resolve” and stick with the measures.
The Government also has a new weapon in the war against Covid-19 – a pandemic alert system.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), a disease version of British intelligence agency GCHQ, will be set up in the coming weeks and help the nation to emerge from the full lockdown.
The JBC will bring together our world-leading epidemiological expertise and fuse it with the best analytical capability from across government in an integrated approach.
The UK remains on alert level orange – one below the highest red alert level, which would see the NHS overwhelmed.
The Government’s plan is to advance with maximum caution in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
Boris Johnson is set to make minimal changes to the lockdown
In his televised address to the nation at 7 this evening, Mr Johnson will set out his road map to bring Britain out of lockdown.
He will explain that the new JBC will identify and address new local spikes across England in coronavirus infections and build a clear national picture of infection rates.
This means that in future the Government can order localised lockdowns rather than forcing the whole country to take emergency measures.
A new alert level will be determined by a range of factors including the rate of infection (known as “R”) and the number of Covid-19 cases being detected by the Biosecurity Centre.
There are five levels on the alert scale, ranging from Level 1 (green) to level 5 (red).
Grant Shapps led yesterday’s Downing Street press conference
In recent weeks the UK has been at level four on the scale with the Government aiming to move to level three before speeding up the easing of lockdown measures.
After coronavirus is brought under control it is hoped the JBC will help control the threat of new outbreaks or future pandemics.
It will identify community-level spikes in infection rates and work with local agencies to trigger any necessary action.
A Downing Street source said: “The Covid alert system will allow us to monitor the virus, bring it under control and determine how tough we need to be in our social distancing measures.
“By continuing to follow the rules, everyone will have a role to play to stop the spread of this disease – getting our society reopened in a safe, transparent and scientifically-led way.”
Coronavirus map life
Sources in Downing Street have confirmed that the Prime Minister will be moving with “extreme caution”.
Initial easing of lockdown will see garden centres open, people allowed to go out for extended periods of exercise and issuing safety guidance to enable people to go back to work.
However, in a sign that the Government is toughening up on enforcing some areas of the restrictions, it was confirmed that penalty fines will be increased for flouting the guidance.
And there will be tougher controls on borders, with 14-day quarantine periods for people entering the country through airports and sea ports.
The announcements come as the total number of coronavirus deaths reached 31,587, up 346.
Boris Johnson will make the announcement at 7pm
Meanwhile, people in hospital beds with the disease dropped by 17 percent in a week from 14,215 to 11,809.
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday announced a £2billion package to encourage people to commute by foot or bike.
But he said it will be a “long time until transport as usual”.
He added that the changes will be “gradual, not a single leap to freedom”.
The Prime Minister’s second national address comes at a critical moment in our efforts to tackle coronavirus.
The first address – on March 23 – announced the nationwide lockdown measures and was watched by 27 million people.
Boris Johnson out on a walk during the week
Mr Johnson will repeat what he told the Cabinet this week – arguing that we must not risk a second peak which might overwhelm the NHS, and we will advance with maximum caution in order to protect the NHS and to save lives.
Ahead of the address, the PM will lead Cobra, the Government emergency committee, this afternoon.
Sitting in will be Cabinet members, leaders from the devolved administrations and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Tomorrow the Government will publish the guidance, which sets out the next phase of our measures, and the Prime Minister will provide an update to Parliament.
The Downing Street source added: “Our approach to announcing the next set of measures has been a careful process, guided by the advice of scientific and medical experts.
“We will take the decisions that continue to save lives and protect the NHS, proceeding with maximum caution and maximum conditionality. This is a critical moment – so having assessed the evidence carefully, and scrutinised the data, the Prime Minister will address the public and ask for their resolve as we continue to do whatever is needed to defeat this terrible virus.”
Current coronavirus lockdown rules
In his Downing Street briefing yesterday, Mr Shapps said getting Britain moving again will present an “enormous logistical challenge”. He revealed that even if the UK transport network was running at full capacity, the two metre social distancing rule would mean that only one in 10 passengers could travel.
He said many people had taken up cycling and walking during the lockdown, saying in some places there has been a 70 per cent rise in the number of people on bikes for exercise or travel.
Announcing a £2billion package “to put cycling and walking at the heart of our transport policy”, he said a national cycling plan will be published early next month to help double cycling and increase walking by 2025. He said measures will include pop-up bike lanes and wider pavements, as well as cycle and bus-only streets. Meanwhile, the airline industry reacted with anger to the proposed quarantine rules.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association said: “Quarantine would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy.
“If the Government believe quarantine is medically necessary, then it should be applied on a selective basis following the science. There should be a clear exit strategy and the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated.”
Published at Sat, 09 May 2020 23:01:00 +0000