Boris Johnson has announced that the UK has met all five coronavirus tests required to ease the lockdown, as the Prime Minister today set out his roadmap for England to ease social distancing restrictions and revitalise the economy.
In April, the Prime Minister announced five tests that had to be met before lockdown restrictions could be eased — making sure the NHS can cope with new infections, a “sustained and consistent’ fall in the daily death rate, the rate of infection decreasing, ensuring supplies can meet demand, and being confident a second wave would not overwhelm the NHS.
In his last daily press conference this evening, Johnson announced that the UK is now meeting all five tests, meaning the country can press ahead to the third phase of easing lockdown restrictions.
“Based on all the data available the government is confident that all the demands of level three are being met,” the Prime Minister said. “We can now make life easier for people to see more of their friends and family and businesses to get back on their feet.”
Under level three, the virus is considered to be “in general circulation”, meaning the UK can now undergo a “gradual relaxation of restrictions”.
Approximately one in 1,700 currently have the virus, down from one in 400 a few weeks ago, while the rate of infection remains between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK.
“Having considered all the evidence, and while staying at two metres is preferable, we can now move to the one metre-plus model where possible,” the Prime Minister said.
However, he added that he would “not hesitate to put on the hand brakes on a local or indeed national level” if further outbreaks occur.
Parts of Germany today reentered lockdown after more than 1,000 abattoir workers contracted the virus. Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance today played down fears that meat posed a particular risk of carrying the virus, but added: “Meat packing factories and food processing areas have led to several outbreaks around the world, so we have to take this particularly seriously.”
Johnson took the improved infection rates in the UK as his cue to ease social distancing restrictions across the country, and today announced that pubs, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, art galleries and other shuttered venues will be able to reopen on 4 July.
But chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned that people will have to get used to living alongside the virus “for a long period,” in a signal that many businesses will not see a return to normal life for the foreseeable future. “I would be surprised and delighted if we weren’t in this situation through the winter and into next spring,” said Whitty.
“Either we wait for immunity or we wait for a vaccine,” added Vallance.
Nightclubs, casinos and gyms have voiced their dismay at the Prime Minister’s decision not to permit their reopening, sparking concerns that further economic turmoil is yet to come.
The Prime Minister assured that he “would like to go out for dinner, get a haircut, play village cricket,” and that he was working his hardest to open all businesses and activities currently shut.