UK needs careful approach to reopening economy - Dominic Raab

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government had to take a careful approach to reopening the economy.

The foreign secretary was speaking on the day non-essential shops in England were allowed to reopen, seeing queues outside many.

At the Downing Street press conference, he said: “We can’t just pretend coronavirus has gone away and we have eliminated the virus.

“We know from the science, and also what we are seeing from international experience, that there is a risk of a second spike if we are not very careful at this moment of time.

“So we need to keep up the social distancing, we need to keep building up and reinforcing the test and trace regime and we need to continue our steady progress in repressing the virus as we try to get life back to something like normal.”

Mr Raab insisted a decision on whether to reduce the two-metre rule would be “underpinned” by science.

“There’s no magic to one or other particular measure, there will be different levels of risk whether it’s at two metres, one-and-a-half metres or one metre.

“As we bring the incidence and the transmission rate down, depending on the setting, it’s something that can be looked at.

“We are still going to make sure that all of the policy judgments that we rightly as politicians take and are accountable for are underpinned by the science.”

However, no science or medical professionals attended the briefing alongside Mr Raab.

When asked why the number of appearances by experts at the briefing has halved in June, Mr Raab said: “In terms of presence at these press conferences, scientists and the chief and deputy medical officers will continue to come and attend these press conferences.

“I think it is also true to say that as we go down the road map and start to talk about the changes we are making, whether it is to business, schools or other areas, we will also bring other independent experts along and make sure we can answer the full range of questions that people have.”

Put to him that there were some questions that medical experts would be more equipped to answer than ministers, Mr Raab added: “Well, you haven’t tried me on a question I can’t answer yet but I am happy to be proved wrong.

“Look, you are right to say the scientists and the medical adviser are important.

“They will continue to attend these press conferences, perhaps not on a daily basis – they’ve got a huge amount of other work to do – and undoubtedly the politicians need to answer the judgment calls we make based on the evolving science.”

Furthermore, Mr Raab sidestepped when asked to give his opinion on British Airways’ treatment of its staff by ITV News' Joel Hills on three occasions.

A report by the Commons Transport Select Committee last week accused the airline of a “calculated attempt to take advantage” of the crisis by cutting up to 12,000 jobs and downgrading the terms and conditions of the bulk of its remaining employees.

Mr Raab cited the job retention and furlough schemes as evidence of the Government’s support for businesses.

But he said: “Ultimately it will be for businesses to decide how they navigate through this challenge.

“But as I set out, we have set out a huge amount of support and I know that the Chancellor and the Treasury are looking very carefully at all of the vulnerable sectors as we come through what is undoubtedly a very difficult time.”

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know