There will be no “dramatic, overnight change” to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the government has said.
The warning not to expect a serious lifting of restrictions comes after a week of reports attributed government sources suggesting an easing could be on the way.
The prime minister is expected to address the country on television on Sunday to spell out the way forward.
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But speaking at a daily press briefing on Friday, George Eustice, the environment secretary, warned that people had to be “realistic”.
“He’s going to set out, effectively, a roadmap of how we can evolve the current restrictions we have [from complete lockdown] to something where certain activities may be possible in the near term and other things might take much longer,” the cabinet minister said.
“We have to be realistic that there isn’t going to be any dramatic overnight change. We will be very, very cautious as we loosen the restrictions we have.”
Mr Eustice said: “Our very clear message today is that even though it’s going to be a sunny bank holiday it is absolutely essential that people abide by the current restrictions and don’t succumb to the temptation to go out and about. We will have to wait for what the prime minister will say on Sunday.”
He added that the data showed “we are not out of the woods” and that “there are still major challenges with this virus”.
There were however clues from Wales about what Boris Johnson might announce, with the Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford signalling the relaxation of the “once a day” rule on exercise, amid other measures.
Mark Drakeford suggested the whole of the UK would make the change at the same time as part of a “four-country” strategy for the UK.
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He also said lockdown restrictions would be eased on garden centres and that regulations would change to allow “local authorities to begin planning how safely to reopen libraries and municipal recycling centres”.
But he warned there would be no generalised lifting of the lockdown, stating: “The expert advice we have received from the chief medical officer is that it is too soon to lift these restrictions, and that if we did we would see a return of the virus. The stay-at-home regulations very much remain in place until the next review in three weeks time. We must not lose the progress that we’ve made.”
Mr Drakeford describes the moves as a “small and modest adjustment”, stating that the Welsh government wanted “to make these adjustments on Monday so that we move in step with the other nations of the United Kingdom, as part of our determined preference for a four-nation approach”.
“The first [change] will be to the once a day exercise rule: the more we learn about coronavirus the evidence shows us that the risk of infection is reduced outdoors,” he said.
“We will adjust our regulations to allow people to go out and exercise more than once a day but we will strengthen our regulations to make it clear that that exercise must be local. It should begin and end at home and it should not involve any significant travel away from home.
“Our second planned change to the regulations will be to allow garden centres to reopen, provided that the two-metre social distancing can be applied. And thirdly, we propose changing the regulations to allow local authorities to begin planning how safely to reopen libraries and municipal recycling centres.”
He said the changes would apply to everyone other than the group of people being told to “shield” from the virus in their home homes and not go outside at all.
Other supposedly expected changes, such as the supposed reopening of schools, ending of the two-metre social distancing rule and the reopening of other businesses or workplaces did not materialise in the announcement.
Asked about the plans outlined by the Welsh first minister, including the reopening of garden centres and libraries, and whether the public should expect to see it in England too, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “I haven’t seen details of what’s been announced.”
When the spokesperson was told what had been announced, they added only that any moves the PM would outline in his address to the nation on Sunday “will be very limited” and the government will be taking a “very cautious approach” in order to avoid a further peak in the virus.
On the devolved administrations possibly announcing different plans from the UK government, the spokesman added: “The PM has set out on the call [to devolved administration leaders on Thursday], we understand there could be circumstances where there is divergence and when there is evidence that supports it. We remain committed to taking a four-nations approach wherever possible.”