Dominic Raab has warned that Britons will need to adapt to a “new normal” as Boris Johnson prepares to go back to work tomorrow for the first time since being hospitalised.
Raab said today that the UK “won’t be going back” to how it was before Covid-19, echoing statements from chief medical officer Chris Whitty this week.
Whitty said at Wednesday’s press conference that the government will need to enforce some form of social distancing restrictions until a vaccine or “highly effective drugs” are produced.
He said it was very unlikely that this would happen before the end of the year.
Raab, speaking to Sky News today, said shops and businesses would likely be forced to implement social distancing measures when they re-open.
It comes as the UK’s official Covid-19 death toll surpassed 20,000 yesterday.
“It won’t going back, it will be a new normal if you like with social distancing measures adapted to areas which are currently closed off,” Raab said.
“The scientists themselves have said …easing up any of the measures now would be dangerous and irresponsible.
“The more we get the rate of deaths down and the more we get the rate of infections down, the more flexibility we’ll have.”
Johnson will return to Downing Street tomorrow, after spending weeks recovering from coronavirus, as the government begins to plan out the next phase of its Covid-19 response.
Number 10 sources told the Sunday Telegraph that the Prime Minister was “raring to go” and that he told Raab and chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday that he was concerned about the possibility of a second Covid-19 peak if lockdown was lifted too soon.
Other European countries such as Belgium, Italy and Spain have already signalled when they will begin easing social distancing restrictions, while Germany has already moved to re-open some shops and venues.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves told the BBC today that the government must “treat [people] like grown-ups” and publish its coronavirus exit strategy.
“We want the government to publish its plan so we can scrutinise it – we don’t want to put forward a rival plan to the government,” she said.
“We want to work with the government in bringing forward a plan and then getting that right.
“People have, by-and-large stuck by the rules that have been put in place and, because they have done that, I think it is even more important that we communicate with them, treat them like grown-ups on where we are going next.”