The government has made the decision to extend the lockdown restrictions for at least another three weeks, foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed this afternoon.
Mr Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from the coronavirus, said the decision was made following advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
He said SAGE advised that “relaxing any of the measures in place” would “undo the progress we have made” and would “risk damage to both public health and the economy.”
He said: “The worst thing that we could do now is ease up too soon – and allow a second peak of the virus to hit the NHS and to hit the British people.”
Talk of the UK’s ‘exit strategy’ for coming out of the lockdown has grown louder this week, particularly with some European countries beginning to relax their restrictions.
However, Mr Raab set out five points which he said the government must be satisfied of before considering lockdown changes:
– Confidence that the NHS can still provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment across the UK.
– Need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate to be confident we are beyond the peak.
– Reliable data from SAGE that the infection rate has decreased to manageable levels.
– Testing capacity and PPE is in hand to meet supply for future demand.
– Not risk a second peak of infection that overwhelms the NHS.
The restaurant industry had not been anticipating any sudden immediate changes to the lockdown restrictions so today’s comments from Mr Raab do not alter the plans that many operators have made.
However, restaurant bosses are keeping a careful eye on any indications from the government of when stores might be able to start opening again.
This week, Britain’s largest midmarket restaurant operator, The Restaurant Group, said it expects all its restaurants and pubs to remain closed until the end of June.
It said it planned to be “extremely disciplined” in the phased reopening of its restaurants through July to December 2020 and would anticipate reopening around 400 of its 600 sites across that period, potentially with some restrictions on operations immediately following lockdown.