No immediate easing of lockdown says Boris as he returns to work

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London. Picture: Stefan Ro

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has returned to work at 10 Downing Street today – and began with a statement pledging to carry on the fight against coronavirus and warning there can be no immediate easing of the lockdown.

Drawing on his own battle with Covid-19 which put him in intensive care, Mr Johnson said it was too early to set out any plans to ease lockdown.

He said: “If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger – which I can tell you from personal experience, it is – then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.

“And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk. I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.”

He said he understood “how hard and stressful it has been to give up, even temporarily, those ancient and basic freedoms”.

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But he said the potential of a second spike in cases risked “economic disaster.”

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The Prime Minister added: “And so when we are sure that this first phase is over and that we are meeting our five tests: deaths falling, NHS protected, rate of infection down, really sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE, avoiding a second peak, then that will be the time to move on to the second phase in which we continue to suppress the disease and keep the reproduction rate – the R rate – down, but begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions and one-by-one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.

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“And in that process difficult judgments will be made and we simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly the Government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.”

Mr Johnson was hopeful that the battle was being won.

He said: “It is still true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war and I in no way minimise the continuing problems we face.

“And yet it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer Covid patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak.

“And thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere.

“And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide.”

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He thanked those who had “stepped up” in his absence, including his stand-in Dominic Raab. He said he had been “away from my desk for much longer than I would’ve liked”.

Mr Johnson added: “Once again I want to thank you the people of this country for the sheer grit and guts you’ve shown and are continuing to show. Every day I know that this virus brings new sadness and mourning to households across the land.”

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