Coronavirus: How many of the five tests for easing lockdown has the UK met?

Jimmy Nsubuga
·4-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Members of the public sunbathing by the lake on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday in Regents Park on May 25, 2020 in London, England. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
Members of the public sunbathing a lake on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday in Regent's Park in London. (Getty)

The government has set out five tests the UK needs to meet before it can ease lockdown restrictions further.

These are: knowing the NHS can cope, a sustained fall in daily death rate, a drop in the infection rate to manageable levels, adequate testing capacity and protective equipment supply, and the confidence that a second wave of infections won’t hit.

England is set to reopen schools for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils from 1 June.

Open-air markets and car showrooms will also open up again from this date and all non-essential shops can trade from 15 June if they follow social distancing.

But how many of the five tests has the UK actually passed?

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 26: A member of the public shops for fruit and vegetables at Walthamstow Street Market on May 26, 2020 in London, England. The British government continues to ease the coronavirus lockdown by announcing schools will open to reception year pupils plus years one and six from June 1st. Open-air markets and car showrooms can also open from the same date.  (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Markets are due to reopen from next week. (Getty Images)

1. Ensuring the NHS can provide critical care across the UK

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab previously said: “We must protect the NHS’s ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.”

The NHS has not been overwhelmed with coronavirus patients during the crisis.

The lockdown was so successful in preventing this from happening that several temporary Nightingale hospitals built to cope with the pandemic were put on standby.

2. A sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths

Raab said: “We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we’ve moved beyond the peak.”

Death rates have continued to fall consistently since the peak.

On Monday, the hospital death rate fell to its lowest since restrictions were put in place, with only 77 people losing their lives to the virus.

3. A decrease in the rate of infection to manageable levels

Raab said: “We need to have reliable data from Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] showing the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.”

The current rate of infection is between 0.7 and 1.0 and has remained at this level over the past two weeks.

The government said if the number was below 1.0 then restrictions could be eased.

If it creeps above 1.0 then the number of people contracting COVID-19 will grow and restrictions will need to be reintroduced.

4. Ensuring testing and PPE can meet future demand

Raab said: “We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE [personal protective equipment, used by healthcare and care workers] are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.”

The government has been criticised on numerous occasions during the coronavirus crisis over its testing programme and supply of PPE.

It has now sufficiently increased testing capacity and hopes to carry out 200,000 tests a day by the end of May.

The new track and trace system is also set to launch on Thursday and will identify anyone at risk of spreading COVID-19.

The government has also agreed deals with more than 100 new suppliers in the UK to provide 2bn pieces of PPE.

The government has faced heavy criticism from health workers who said they were not always provided with the right equipment and did not feel safe.

Health secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged problems with distribution and sourcing sufficient supplies in a competitive international market.

5. Being confident adjustments will not risk a second peak of infections

“This is really crucial,” Raab said.

“We must be confident any adjustments from the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that would overwhelm the NHS.”

On Sunday, Boris Johnson said he was confident enough to go ahead with easing the next series of restrictions on 1 June.

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