Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has rejected fresh calls for an early easing of the coronavirus lockdown, saying the outbreak was still at a “delicate and dangerous” stage.
The government is coming under intense pressure from senior Tories to relax the strict social-distancing measures, amid concern at the damage they are doing to the economy.
But Mr Raab, who has been standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from the disease, said the government would proceed “cautiously” in order to avoid a second peak in the outbreak.
“We are at a delicate and dangerous stage,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“We need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed, which is why we are proceeding very cautiously and we are sticking to the scientific advice with the social-distancing measures at this time, whilst doing all the homework to make sure that we are prepared in due course for the next phase.”
Mr Raab brushed off a call from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for the government to set out an “exit strategy” explaining how the lockdown could eventually be lifted.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, Sir Keir said it was essential ministers learned the lessons from the mistakes made dealing with the crisis.
“Until we can be confident, based on the scientific advice, that we are making sure-footed steps going forward that protect life, but also preserve our way of life, frankly it is not responsible to start speculating about the individual measures,” Mr Raab said.
Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr show, Mr Raab said the UK will be "moving to a new normal" after the lockdown is eased.
He said there will be social distancing measures in different contexts "for some time."
Mr Raab said it was “inconceivable” schools could re-open without measures in place to stop the spread of the disease, but said ministers were looking to ease restrictions on outdoor activities.
“We do want to look – when it is safe, when it is responsible – at ways to allow more outdoor activities to take place, but again we have got to have the evidence that that is a sure-footed step – doesn’t allow coronavirus to get a grip back on the country.”
Labour's Rachel Reeves said disclosing more about the plan to ease lockdown measures is essential as "businesses and schools and other organisations need time to plan if they are to re-open".
Ms Reeves added that when it is safe to do so, the re-opening of schools is important as "young people are missing out on vital days and weeks and months of their education".
She also called on testing "to be ramped up further" if lockdown measures are relaxed.
"It is incredibly important that the overnment take people with us on this journey.
"People have by and large stuck by the rules that have been put in place and because they've done that I think it is even more important that we communicate with them, treat them like grown-ups, in where we're going next.
"I think it is also important for two other reasons, first of all, businesses and schools and other organisations need time to plan if they are to re-open," Ms Reeves told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show.
Ms Reeves said: "We want the Government to publish its plans so that we can scrutinise it, we don't want to put forward a rival plan to the Government's, we want to work with the Government in bringing forward a plan and then getting that right."
Additionally, when discussing how soon a coronavirus vaccine would be circulation, he said that it is "not likely to come to fruition this year".
On a more positive note, Mr Raab claimed things were "on track" to reach the target of 100,000 tests for Covid-19 by Thursday
Mr Johnson is due to return to work in Downing Street on Monday, after spending the past fortnight recuperating at his official country residence, Chequers.
Mr Raab said: “He is in good spirits. He is raring to go. He is looking forward to getting back at the reins on Monday.”
Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: