Coronavirus: Too early to lift lockdown measures, says Dominic Raab

‘We’re not done yet, we must keep going,’ says foreign secretary

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
,Kate Devlin
Thursday 09 April 2020 18:11 BST
'Too early' to lift lockdown measures, says Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab has said it is too early to lift the lockdown measures in place to combat coronavirus, telling the public: “We’re not done yet, we must keep going.”

The foreign secretary, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while the prime minister is in hospital, confirmed that the three-week lockdown would probably be extended next week as the peak of the outbreak had not been reached.

As the death toll rose by 881 on the previous day, Mr Raab urged people to continue to observe the strict measures over the Easter bank holiday weekend amid fears people would take advantage of the good weather to go out.

He told the daily Downing Street press conference: “It’s been almost three weeks and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made.

“But the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.

“We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science.”

Mr Raab, who chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee on Thursday, thanked everyone for staying indoors but urged the public to keep sticking to the rules.

Early signs suggest the lockdown measures are having an impact but “it’s too early to say that conclusively”, Mr Raab said. The restrictions are being kept under review, the minister said.

He added: “We don’t expect to be able to say more on this until the end of next week.

“The measures will have to stay in place until we’ve got the evidence that clearly shows we’ve moved beyond the peak.”

He went on: “Let’s not undo the gains we’ve made, let’s not waste the sacrifices so many people have made.

“We mustn’t give the coronavirus a second chance to kill more people and to hurt our country.”

His comments mean there is no end in sight for stringent lockdown measures, which the prime minister said would be reviewed three weeks after their introduction, which would have been on Monday.

It also comes after the Welsh government announced it would not “throw away the gains we have made” by lifting restrictions immediately after Easter.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the evidence showed that social-distancing measures were “making a big difference” and warned that the NHS could have been “overrun” without the restrictions.

He said the peak could still be weeks away as deaths could continue to increase for “up to two weeks after the intensive care picture improves”.

Mr Raab insisted he was empowered to take major decisions on issues such as lifting the lockdown while Mr Johnson remains in hospital suffering from coronavirus.

In a bullish response to questions about his role as de-facto deputy, Mr Raab insisted: “I’ve got all the authority I need to make the relevant decisions – whether it’s through chairing cabinet updates, chairing Cobra, or indeed the morning meetings of senior ministers.”

The prime minister’s condition continues to improve and he is in “good spirits” after three nights in intensive care, his spokesperson said.

Elsewhere, Priti Patel, the home secretary, told Talkradio it was clear last Tuesday, five days before he went to hospital, that Mr Johnson was “quite frankly unwell” and needed “rest and recuperation”.

In her first public appearance following accusations she was avoiding public scrutiny, Ms Patel also said ministers were “absolutely not” considering stricter measures.

Coronavirus UK death toll in hospitals alone rises by 881 in one day, Raab says

Meanwhile, a new study found many people are struggling with life under lockdown, with 38 per cent sleeping less or less well than normal, and 35 per cent saying they were eating more food or less healthy food than normal.

Half of people (49 per cent) said they have felt more anxious or depressed than normal, while one in five (22 per cent) said they already cannot afford essential items or housing costs, or that they are certain or very likely to struggle during the crisis.

Despite these results, nearly nine out of 10 people (89 per cent) support the lockdown measures.

Interviews of 2,250 UK residents, aged 18 to 75, were carried out by Ipsos ​Mori ​on behalf of King’s College London between 1 April and 3 April.

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