Coronavirus: Raab says 'plan is working' but UK lockdown 'to be extended for another three weeks'

Ross McGuinness
·3-min read
A social distancing notice on display in St James's Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Social distancing restrictions are set to be extended for another three weeks, it has been reported (PA Images via Getty Images)

The government is set to announce the UK will keep its coronavirus social distancing restrictions in place for three more weeks, it has been reported.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while he recovers from coronavirus, will make the announcement on Thursday, according to The Times.

The newspaper said Raab will tell the British public that the government’s restrictions will remain in place until at least 7 May.

According to the government, of those people hospitalised in the UK who have tested positive for coronavirus, 11,329 have died, but Raab insisted on Monday its plan “is working”.

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said the battle against coronavirus “isn’t going to be over in weeks, it will take months”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, I think people will need to wait until we have seen the evidence and the recommendations that come from that after the assessment of the first three weeks of lockdown.

“There are legislative elements which will need to be sorted out at the appropriate time, but we will continue to review the evidence.”

Under the government’s “stay at home” restrictions, people are only allowed to go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if they cannot work from home). If people do go outside, they must stay two metres away from others.

During Monday’s daily government briefing, Raab said it was still unclear if the UK should have introduced its COVID-19 restrictions earlier, following continued criticism it was too slow to respond to the pandemic.

The Times reported that Raab is expected to ask leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to attend a Cobra meeting to ensure a UK-wide approach in setting a new restrictions deadline.

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A three-week extension of social distancing measures is the maximum permitted under emergency legislation.

On Monday, Raab insisted the government’s plan to tackle the pandemic “is working”, despite the death toll going past 11,000 and continued questions over testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

Raab said the latest data suggested the UK was "starting to win this struggle", three weeks after restrictions were imposed.

But he insisted the virus was not yet past its peak and that it was "far too early" to talk about relaxing the measures.

Screen grab of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab during a coronavirus media briefing in Downing Street on Monday. (PA Images via Getty Images)

"Our plan is working,” he said. "Please stick with it, and we'll get through this crisis together."

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Raab said it was crucial that "we do not take our eye off the ball" when it comes to social distancing.

It came as the World Health Organization (WHO) said restrictions should be lifted slowly and not "all at once" to avoid a resurgence of the virus, and only if appropriate measures are in place, including "significant" capacity for contact tracing.

But experts have also warned that the public's will to stick to the measures could fade and the government needs to find a way to tell the nation about how they will be eased.

Professor Linda Bauld, from the college of medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said that while public compliance is currently strong, “this won't last”.

She added: "There will come a tipping point when the cost of the current restrictions outweighs the benefits."

"Sooner rather than later, government needs to share the possible options with the public and be transparent about the costs and benefits of each, rather than continually evading questions on this, as is currently the case."

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