'Detailed' plans being drawn up to restart economy, Jenrick says as testing falls below 100,000 for fourth day

Just 69,463 coronavirus tests were carried out on Tuesday, the fourth day in a row the figure has been below 100,000, Robert Jenrick has said.

The housing secretary, speaking at the government's daily Covid-19 press conference, also set out some of the work being done to reopen the economy once the lockdown is eased.

"Every local economy now needs a plan to restart and recover," he said ahead of Boris Johnson setting out a "road map" for easing lockdown on Sunday.

Mr Jenrick said "detailed" plans are being drawn up on how workplaces can be adapted, how outdoor spaces, leisure and businesses can be managed, and how public transport networks can operate.

He said there is a "strong preference" for measures to be lifted at the same time across the country, however he added some restrictions could be reimposed at a local level if required.

He said it is possible the track and trace system could alert ministers to particular virus hotspots in the country, then "interventions" could be made in smaller micro-communities.

Earlier the prime minister confirmed he would set out a lockdown exit strategy on Sunday, before potentially relaxing some restrictions on Monday.

He also set out a new "ambition” to reach 200,000 coronavirus tests per day “by the end of this month”.

On Friday Matt Hancock claimed the government had reached its target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, saying 122,000 tests were carried out on Thursday.

But testing has not gone above 100,000 since, and questions have been raised over how tests were counted after 27,497 home test kits, which had not yet been returned, were included in the figure.

Labour shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth was quick to criticise the "downward trajectory" it appears testing is on.

He said: "100,000 completed tests a day was pledged. Instead testing has gone down for the fourth day in a row."

"Ministers need to explain why they are failing to deliver the testing promised," he added.

After Mr Johnson revealed his new testing target at PMQs, his spokesman clarified that this target was for capacity, not actual tests carried out.

It is an "operational target to have the capacity across all of the different testing pillars to do 200,00 tests a day”, the spokesman said.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the new target, but asked: "What does the PM think was so special about the 30th of April that meant that testing that day was so high?" Sir Keir asked.

The PM admitted "capacity currently exceeds demand" but said ministers are "working on that".

The official death toll is now at 30,076, Mr Jenrick said, with an increase of 649 from Tuesday.

As the UK's death toll surpassed Italy's, Mr Jenrick said international comparisons are "difficult".

“That’s a hard calculation to do with accuracy today," he said, despite one of the government's slides at the press conference showing global differences.

Global death comparison Credit: COBR

Public Health England medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle has said the numbers of both Covid-19 deaths and hospital patients with the disease are continuing to fall.

Speaking at the daily No 10 press briefing, she said the number of fatalities was “slowly going down” but that it was too soon to draw international comparisons.

“It is far too early to say how countries have fared in this epidemic,” she said.

“We need to give it some time – probably a year.”

Mr Jenrick was also speaking alongside Medical Director for NHS England Nikki Kanani.

Downing Street stressed that “it is not going to be a case of flicking a switch” to lift all measures at once, instead “people will have to prepare for a different type of normal”.

At PMQs Mr Johnson said he “bitterly” regrets the Covid-19 crisis in care homes and expressed frustration about problems supplying personal protective equipment (PPE).

The PM said problems in securing personal protective equipment were “enraging” but there was now a “massive plan to ramp up domestic supply”.

Both care homes and PPE are likely to be topics Mr Jenrick gives updates on.