Coronavirus: UK government says still unclear if lockdown should have been earlier

Victoria Bell
·4-min read
In this handout photo provided by 10 Downing Street, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in intensive care Tuesday with coronavirus at the NHS St Thomas' Hospital in central London. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street via AP)
Dominic Raab said that it was unclear whether implementing lockdown measures sooner would have resulted in less coronavirus cases. (AP)

The UK government has said that it remains “unclear” on whether they should have introduced lockdown sooner.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while he is recuperating from his week-long stint in hospital after contracting coronavirus, said that it was difficult to make comparisons with countries because of varying circumstances.

Raab said during Monday’s daily coronavirus briefing at Downing Street: “I don’t think it is clear, I don’t think those comparisons are like for like, because of where we are on the curve… but also the individual circumstances in those countries.

“We will continue to monitor and we do monitor what’s going on in other countries and make sure we feed that in to what we’re doing here.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, agreed and told reporters via video link: “It is very difficult to make those comparisons.”

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Screen grab of (left to right) Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, left, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, centre, and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, right, during a media briefing in Downing Street on Monday. (PA)

“I think there is a lot to learn from other countries in terms of what we need to do and we’re definitely looking very closely at other countries in terms of how they think about release of lockdown measure.”

The government also said it does not expect to make changes to coronavirus lockdown restrictions this week.

Raab said the UK's plan "is working" but that "we are still not passed the peak of this virus".

After revealing that 11,329 COVID-19 patients have now died across the country, he said that it’s still “far too early” to talk about the relaxing of measures and the changing of advice.

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“We are doing a lot of work in government to be guided by the science and the medical advice that you get and I think that, until you have got that evidence, we will be getting ahead of ourselves.”

“There will come a time in the future where we can talk about relaxation or transition but we are not there now.”

A cyclist passes graffiti as the country continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, in London, Monday, April 13, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A cyclist passes graffiti in London as the country continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (AP)

Raab offered no indication for when the curve will flatten or when lockdown would end.

The UK has now entered its fourth week of lockdown.

Boris Johnson was criticised in March because of the government's lax approach to social distancing measures, especially after Italy and Spain and Ireland introduced rigorous measures, shutting down all non-essential businesses.

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More than 245 British and international experts signed an open letter expressing their “concern” about the prime minister’s then course of action.

April 12th 2020 - Boris Johnson has been released from the hospital after being treated for symptoms of the coronavirus. - April 5th 2020 - Boris Johnson has been admitted to the hospital after displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. - March 27th 2020 - Boris Johnson - Prime Minister of The United Kingdom - has tested positive for the coronavirus. - File Photo by: zz/KGC-247/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 7/24/19 Boris Johnson delivers his first speech as Prime Minister of The United Kingdom outside Number 10 Downing Street. (London, England, UK)
Boris Johnson was criticised for his initial approach to the coronavirus crisis by critics who said that the lockdown should have been implemented sooner. (AP)
A woman wears a protective mask as she waits outside a tube station in London, as the country is in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, Monday, April 13, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A woman wears a protective mask as she waits outside a tube station in London. The UK has just entered its fourth week in lockdown. (AP)

Critics including the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt have previously expressed concern about the decision to delay more drastic measures, such as school closures.

After initially asking people to avoid pubs, he did not force them to close prompting his father, Stanley Johnson, to announce that he would flout advice and go anyway.

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On Sunday, Boris Johnson was released from hospital after spending three days in intensive care.

Johnson was admitted to hospital on 5 April after initially testing positive for COVID-19 on 27 March. Earlier on Monday, he tweeted that he was “in good spirits” and was still keeping in touch with his team in government.

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