The government is preparing the UK for a staged return to a “new normal” with the possibility of lockdown restrictions being applied in a “localised way”, according to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
He suggested this at the daily coronavirus press conference, where Professor Stephen Powis of the NHS said the peak of hospital admissions had now passed, particularly in London — and it was revealed that tests had fallen below the government’s daily target.
Gove said ministers were working with employers and unions to ensure that workers understood safety guidance and that public servants would be offered protective equipment varying “from setting to setting”.
He said: «The strategy is for a phased approach that allows us to monitor the impact and challenges on public health and, if necessary, in a specific, localised way we can pause or change as required.»
The «phased» approach is likely to see primary school children returning to their schools in June, according to reports, and measures will be introduced for office workspaces.
Before any sort of revision to the current lockdown, Gove said that it would be imperative that the government’s five-point criteria had to be met: “Before we can ease the existing restrictions, we must ensure that the government’s five tests are met, that the number of cases are falling, that death rates are declining, that the NHS has what it needs, and that measures are in place to stop a second peak overwhelming the NHS.”
Gove gave no further detail as to how localised restrictions could be implemented, but he noted how the “amazing” increase in the level of testing would give people greater confidence when the lockdown is eased.
However, on the point of testing, he announced just 76,496 tests were administered yesterday, a significant fall in the numbers just days after the government celebrated hitting health secretary Matt Hancock’s “audacious” goal of 100,000 tests a day. The government had been criticised for including 40,000 postal tests that were sent out but not necessarily completed.
Gove suggested that the fall in tests could be down during the weekend as fewer people were at work.
A “test, track, and trace” programme, using an app and human tracers, is set to be unveiled by health secretary Matt Hancock on Monday, with the Isle of Wight used for the pilot’s setting.
Today’s briefing announced a further 327 deaths, bringing the latest figures of coronavirus deaths in the UK to 28,446 and making it the second-highest total in Europe.
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