More than 27.5 million people tuned in to Boris Johnson’s address on the UK’s lockdown on Sunday night, making it one of the most-watched television broadcasts in British history.
The prime minister’s statement, which was aired in the 7pm slot across major channels, outlined in broad terms the government’s “road map” for restarting the economy and social life in England when the coronavirus lockdown comes to an end.
The address also narrowly received more viewers than Mr Johnson’s statement announcing the lockdown in March, which was watched by 27.1 million people.
Some 18.7 million people tuned in on BBC One, peaking at 20.1 million, according to overnight ratings, while a further 1.4 million watched on the BBC News channel, the corporation said.
An average of 4.9 million people watched on ITV, peaking at 5 million, while a further 800,000 watched on Channel 4 and 390,000 on Channel 5, the broadcasters said.
Some 1.4 million people were also viewing on Sky News and 90,000 on Sky One, according to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
However, the pre-recorded broadcast fell short of the UK’s most-watched programmes ever, as it recorded audience figures some way behind the 1966 World Cup Final (32.3 million viewers) and the funeral of Princess Diana (32.1 million viewers).
On Sunday, Mr Johnson announced tweaks to the lockdown by allowing people in England to take unlimited exercise and to sunbathe or chat in parks with one other person from a different household as long as they stay 2m apart.
The prime minister also said people who cannot work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, should be “actively encouraged” to return to their jobs.
He added that a phased reopening of schools and non-essential shops in England could potentially begin from 1 June if the infection rate of Covid-19 can be reduced.
Reactions to the statement were mixed, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying it raised “as many questions as it answers” and claiming Mr Johnson had failed to provide the “clarity and consensus” the country needed.
Frances O’Grady, general-secretary of the Trades Union Congress, described the PM’s address as a “recipe for chaos” and argued that employers still did not have clear guidance on how to enforce social distancing at work.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph suggested in a front-page opinion piece that the road map had “only a few vague directions” and The Guardian said Mr Johnson had left the UK “confused and divided”.
Additional reporting by PA
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