Coronavirus: Government admits it does not know when epidemic peak will hit UK

'It is too early to say when the peak is going to be', No 10 says - after forecasts ranging from this weekend to a full week later

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 08 April 2020 13:57 BST
When could the lockdown end?

No 10 has admitted it does not know when the peak of the coronavirus pandemic will hit, making an early easing of the lockdown even less likely.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, had suggested the crisis would be at its worst this weekend – while the mayor of London predicted it might take a week longer.

But, asked for the government’s latest forecast, the Downing Street spokesman said: “It is too early to say when the peak is going to be.”

He added: “The focus needs now to be relentlessly on stopping the transmission of this disease.”

Dominic Raab, the stand-in prime minister, had already all-but admitted the lockdown will continue – although a review will take place next week, as required by law.

And the Welsh government appeared to confirm the restrictions will stay in place, in an announcement that blindsided its counterparts in London.

“We are definitely extending the lockdown – it will not be raised next Tuesday,” said housing minister Julie James.

The No10 spokesman said it was not predicting the timescale for the peak on the advice of its scientists, adding: “They have been clear that it is too early for us to be able to definitively say.”

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, suggested it could be a month before an easing of the lockdown could be even contemplated.

“You hit the peak, perhaps the beginning of next week – then you have 2-3 weeks before you start to see the numbers decisively turning,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The comments came as Boris Johnson was revealed to be “responding to treatment” as he remained in a stable condition after a second night in an intensive care unit.

On testing, Downing Street defended its progress after just 14,000 tests were carried out on Monday, on fewer than 10,000 patients – when the target is 100,000 daily tests by the end of this month.

“We have been making good progress,” the spokesman said, pointing to more than 20,000 checks now carried out on NHS staff and their family members.

And he backed the performance of the World Health Organisation, after Donald Trump attacked it, insisting Britain had no plans to pull funding.

He also played down the US president revealing the UK has asked for 200 ventilators, saying he was referring to orders from US companies that had already been placed.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief aide, is still recovering from coronavirus at home, the spokesman said: “He has been in contact with No 10, but is not working in No 10 at the moment.”

He insisted cats and dogs can go outside, contrary to some suggestions they should be kept indoors to guard against the risk of them spreading coronavirus.

Asked if Larry, the No 10 cat, was confined to barracks, the spokesman replied: “He’s fine, he is going about his business in the usual way.”

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