Easing lockdown too soon 'worst thing we can do', warns Boris Johnson ahead of revealing exit strategy on Sunday

  • Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan

Boris Johnson is not expected to set out a road map on how the UK will exit lockdown until Sunday – three days after the government must review the current restrictions.

The government said it would consider whether to extend lockdown restrictions on May 7, but ahead of the deadline the prime minister posted a video saying easing the rules now would be the "worst thing we could do".

In the video message on Twitter he said the UK could only move to the "second phase of this conflict" once the "five tests" had been met.

The five tests are:

  • The NHS must have sufficient critical care capacity

  • There must be a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths

  • The infection rate must be decreasing to “manageable levels”

  • There must be enough PPE and testing supply

  • Any adjustments must not lead to a second peak which could overwhelm the health service.

Ministers have been under pressure to explain their exit strategy but have so far resisted the calls – warning that to do so risks undermining the message to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, on Sunday Michael Gove said that some social distancing measures would remain in place until a vaccine has been developed but that the Government would seek to restore people’s lives to “as close to normal as possible”.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster warned that people would have to live with “some degree of constraint” until they can be immunised against the deadly disease – suggesting Britons would have to accept a “new normal”.

One of the ways in which life could return to some semblance of normality is through the use of a new contact-tracing app which would alert users when they have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus symptoms and should seek a Covid-19 test.

On Sunday, Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said it will be trialled on the Isle of Wight this week.

Mr Gove also revealed that the number of daily coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours had fallen to 76,496 – below the Government’s 100,000 daily testing target – which was blamed on lower uptake over the weekend.

The Cabinet minister told the daily Downing Street press conference: “Ultimately, unless and until we have a vaccine then I suspect that we are going to have to live with some degree of constraint because of the nature of the virus.

“But we obviously want to, wherever possible, and consistent with the measures on public health, restore people’s lives to as close to normal as possible.”

He said the Government will pursue a “phased approach” to removing lockdown restrictions rather than a sudden return to “the old normal” – and that the easing had to be done in a “cautious fashion”.

Also on Sunday, Mr Shapps suggested one option the government could put forward would be the staggering of work times to try and make public transport safer.

Hand sanitiser stations in offices, spacing on platforms and one-way systems are also among measures that could be imposed, he added.

Social distancing measures are likely to be in place until a vaccine is found.

On Monday, the prime minister told an online pledging conference – co-hosted by the UK and eight other countries and organisations – that the sooner states share their expertise the faster scientists will succeed in defeating the disease.

Mr Johnson described the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine as the “most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes” as he called on nations to “pull together” in response to the pandemic.

  • ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery on how the UK could look to Europe for a 'template' on easing lockdown measures:

The PM told Monday’s conference, which aims to bring in more than £6.6 billion in funding, that the race to develop a vaccine is “not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.

“It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together and together we will prevail,” he said.

Coronavirus has claimed more than 246,000 lives around the world, according to analysis by John Hopkins University.

A total of 28,446 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday.

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