‘We are past the peak’: Coronavirus now on ‘downward slope’, says prime minister

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking at a news conference inside 10 Downing Street. Picture: PA

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking at a news conference inside 10 Downing Street. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Coronavirus is now on a “downward slope” in the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson has declared - saying: “We are past the peak of this disease.”

Mr Johnson imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 23 to stop the spread of the disease, warning that - without tough restrictions on people’s lives - the health service would be overwhelmed and that hundreds of thousands of people could die.

In the past few weeks, more than 20,000 coronavirus patients have died across the country, with 246 patients with the illness losing their life at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals.

Ten more deaths at Suffolk and north Essex hospitals were confirmed on Thursday, with six at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).

A further four deaths were announced by West Suffolk Hospital.

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The month-long lockdown has put huge pressure on people’s lives, causing many to lose their jobs or be furloughed as businesses have been forced to close.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the difficulties the public has suffered during “enforced confinement”, where they have not been able to see friends and family and have been forced to stay mostly indoors.

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But he said: “We can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us.”

In the daily Downing Street press conference on the disease, the prime minister - who himself contracted to coronavirus and ended up in intensive care - said: “I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease.

“We are past the peak and on the downward slope.”

“We have come through the peak.

“Or rather we have come under what could have been a vast peak.

“As though we have been going through some huge Alpine tunnel.

“And we can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us.”

Mr Johnson praised the way the NHS had dealt with the pandemic, saying: “At no stage has our NHS been overwhelmed, no patient went without a ventilator, no patient was deprived of intensive care.

“It is thanks to that massive collective effort to shield the NHS that we avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic where the reasonable worst-case scenario was 500,000 deaths.”

However he warned: “We must be sure that we can continue to protect the NHS and its ability to cope.

“We must see a sustained fall in deaths.

“We must all make sure that the measures we take do not risk a second spike that would overwhelm the NHS.”

The prime minister is now preparing to set out how to kickstart the economy after more than a month of shutdown.

“Until this day comes (when an inoculation is ready), and we cannot say exactly when this will be,” he said.

“We are going to have to beat this disease by our growing resolve and ingenuity.

“I will be setting out a comprehensive plan next week to explain how we can get our economy moving, our children back to school and into childcare, and thirdly how we can travel to work and make life in the workplace safer.

“In short, how we can continue to suppress the disease and at the same time restart the economy.”

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