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London, April 16, 2020
The United Kingdom today extended the lockdown measures imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) by three more weeks even as the death toll in the country rose to 13,729.
Announcing the Government's decision, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at a media briefing that 327,608 people in the UK had been tested for the coronavirus and 103,093 of them had tested positive.
He said there were indications that the measures put in place had been successful in slowing down the spread of the virus. He said the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) had also said that it is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.
"In sum, the very clear advice we have received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus. That would threaten a second peak of the virus, and substantially increase the number of deaths.
"It would undo the progress made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures. So early relaxation would do more damage to the economy over a longer period," he said.
"I want to be clear about this. The advice from SAGE is that relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy," he said.
"... based on this advice, the Government has determined that current measures must remain in place for at least the next 3 weeks," he said.
Raab said the government needed to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so that it is confident that the country had moved beyond the peak before it could take any decision on relaxing the measures.
"We need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board. We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand. This is really crucial, we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS," he said.
"We’ve just come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones, we’ve already sacrificed far too much to ease up now, especially when we’re beginning to see the evidence that our efforts are starting to pay off," he added.