Britain’s coronavirus lockdown measures are likely to be extended, ministers from the UK government and devolved administrations have said.
Speaking on Thursday morning cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said it was unlikely that the restrictions would be ended because they were just starting to take effect.
His comments follow the government’s chief scientist saying the UK would have to get past the peak of infections before it even reviewed at how the measures could be ended.
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“I don’t think it’s very likely these measures are going to be changed given they’re just starting to have an effect but, as we said, we would review them,” the Culture Secretary Mr Dowden told BBC news.
“It’s only prudent that on an ongoing basis we review them after three weeks.”
The prime minister had previously suggested a review of the measures would take place three weeks after their introduction, which would be on Monday.
Downing Street has however now indicated that the review could take place later – with the latest possible lawful date set at 16 April, or next Thursday. Mr Dowden insisted ministers were following “proper process”.
Also speaking on Thursday morning Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething said there is “virtually zero prospect” of measures being eased. He said they would remain in place for “a number of weeks”.
“With the scientific group on emergency advising all four governments across the UK, there is virtually zero prospect of their advice being that it is safe and appropriate to remove lockdown measures now,” he told BBC News.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is expected to deputise for the prime minister by chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Thursday afternoon.
The lockdown measures are expected to be discussed at the committee with the leaders of the devolved nations, but no decision is expected to be made on whether to ease or strengthen them.
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On Wednesday the government reported its highest daily death toll yet, with 938 people diagnosed with the virus dying in hospitals – suggesting the UK is not yet over the peak of the pandemic.
Boris Johnson spent his third night in intensive care on Wednesday night; Downing Street says he is now able to sit up and his condition is stable.
The lockdown restrictions on going outside are set to face their toughest test yet over the coming Easter weekend, where temperatures in parts of the country are expected to hit 25C – making the outdoors more attractive to those cooped up inside