British foreign minister Dominic Raab, on his last day of deputising for PM Boris Johnson said that the government must not rush to ease the coronavirus lockdown and should act cautiously to avoid a second spike in infections and a second lockdown that would damage public confidence.
Raab, was pressed to reveal the government’s thinking on how and when Britain might begin to see an easing of social distancing measures.
“We are at a delicate and dangerous stage and we need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed,” Raab told Sky news, adding that the government was “doing the homework” behind closed doors on what would happen in the next phase.
“It’s not responsible to start speculating about the individual measures,” he said, urging the public to stick to the current guidance, which is to stay at home except for essential travel.
The number of deaths related to COVID-19 in hospitals across the United Kingdom has risen above 20,000, the latest data showed on Saturday, with the overall figure likely to be significantly higher once deaths in care homes and hospices are tallied.
The economic news has been equally dire. Data released last week showed demand had slumped to an all-time low, retail sales had plunged by the most on record and government debt was surging.
With a Bank of England interest rate-setter warning that the economic contraction could be the worst in centuries, the data added to pressure on the government to give some indication of when and how people and businesses would be able to get to work.