Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

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Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

Ministers will discuss a review of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown later to consider whether restrictions on people’s movements should be extended.

The government’s emergency Cobra committee will look at evidence from scientists on the impact of measures brought in on 23 March – although a formal decision is not expected.

It comes as Boris Johnson spent a third night in intensive care with the virus.

Meanwhile, the public is being urged to stay at home over the Easter weekend.

 

Warm weather is forecast with temperatures set to reach 25C (77F) in some parts of the country, according to the Met Office.

The Times reports that political leaders across the UK are preparing to unite to deliver a “stay at home this Easter” campaign – and government adverts carrying the message appear in several newspapers on Thursday.

The chief of Northamptonshire Police, Nick Adderley, has said the “three-week grace period is over” and the force will now crack down on people flouting the rules, meaning they could face fines or a criminal record.

It comes as the UK recorded its highest daily rise in the number of patients dying with coronavirus, with 938 deaths recorded in UK hospitals in the 24 hours up to 17:00 BST on Tuesday. The total number of UK deaths now stands at 7,097.

‘Zero prospect’ of lockdown lifting

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is acting on behalf of Mr Johnson as he continues treatment for the virus, will chair the virtual Cobra meeting, which will also include leaders of the devolved nations.

  • Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

In Wales, it has already been confirmed that lockdown measures will stay in place beyond next week, raising expectations this will be the case across the UK.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething – who will take part in the Cobra meeting – said there was “virtually zero prospect” of government experts advising that it was safe to lift the lockdown, adding the measures would continue for “a number of weeks”.

He told BBC Breakfast it was important to be “straight with the public”, saying that “if we don’t provide a clear message to the public” then people might be under the impression the lockdown measures might be lifted next week anyway and “start to act as if the last few days doesn’t really matter”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast it was unlikely the measures will change now, as “we’re just beginning to see this strategy starting to work”.

“The Welsh government announced their decision yesterday, we will announce the outcome of considering these measures next week but the measures are in place in England just as they are in Wales,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s very likely these measures are going to be changed given they’re just starting to have an effect but, as we said, we would review them. It’s only prudent that on an ongoing basis we review them after three weeks.”

According to new coronavirus laws, the health secretary must review the restrictions at least once every 21 days. The law states the first review must take place by 16 April.

Labour leader Keir Starmer called on the government to publish its exit strategy for ending the lockdown.

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

“I’m not calling for precise timings, but the strategy,” he tweeted. “This is incredibly difficult on people and we need to know that plans are in place, and what they are.”

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Mr Dowden also appealed for people to stay at home over the Easter weekend.

Although many people had hoped to see family and friends, “we won’t be able to do any of those things,” he said. “We’ll have to stay at home and the reason why we’re having to stay at home is in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

And Mr Dowden said there had been no change in Mr Johnson’s condition – “he’s stable, improving, sat up and engaged with medical staff”.

According to the latest update from Downing Street on Wednesday night, Mr Johnson “continues to make steady progress” but remains in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

He was taken to hospital on Sunday evening after self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms and admitted to intensive care a day later.

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

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One family’s story: ‘Every day we prepare for worst’

Sue Martin’s husband Mal, 58, from south Wales, has been in intensive care for the past 11 days. She and her two teenage children were not allowed to visit the hospital but video called him in hospital.

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

“We just told him how much we loved him, I said I was really sorry that I hadn’t sent him in earlier.

“He promised he was going to fight it and he said to my daughter ‘don’t worry I’m going to be here a while yet, I’m going to be here for your wedding, and for you both growing up and to see William play rugby for Wales’.”

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

Doctors tried to wean Mal off the ventilator but he continued to deteriorate, and the medics told Sue there was almost zero chance he was going to survive.

“I rang back later and begged to be able to see him. We hadn’t seen him since he left the house over a week before.”

“We had to be in full protective gear – we weren’t allowed to touch him but we could speak to him. Essentially we were going in to say our goodbyes.

“We just told him we loved him and it was heartbreaking to hear the children tell him that they were going to make him proud and we were really glad to have that time with him.” Since then, there has been no further improvement but no deterioration in his condition.

“Every day we prepare for the worst but there’s this little glimmer that maybe just maybe he might turn a corner.”

Sue’s interview, recorded on Wednesday, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday morning.

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Meanwhile, a leading economic think tank says the pandemic will have far-reaching consequences for people’s health in the UK because of the impact on the NHS and the likely financial downturn.

A briefing note from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that wide-scale job losses could deepen inequalities, while the knock-on effects of cancelling non-urgent operations may take years to reverse.

“The health impacts of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be felt long after the social distancing measures come to an end,” said Heidi Karjalainen, one of the authors.

‘Beginning to see benefits’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said at the government’s daily news conference on Wednesday the review would happen “around” the three-weeks point, which would be based on evidence that will “only be available next week”.

“I think rather than speculate about the future, I think we should focus very seriously on the here and now and the present,” he added.

Deputy chief scientific adviser Prof Dame Angela McLean told the news conference new cases were not “accelerating out of control” in the UK.

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But NHS England medical director Stephen Powis warned now was not the time to become “complacent”.

He said: “We are beginning to see the benefits… we have to continue following instructions, we have to continue following social distancing, because if we don’t, the virus will start to spread again.”

Mr Sunak also unveiled a £750m funding package to keep struggling charities afloat during the pandemic.

The measures, which involve cash grants direct to charities providing key services during the crisis, follow concern that some charities are facing collapse because of enforced shop closures.

In other developments:

Ministers To Discuss UK Lockdown Review

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