"Too early" to ease lockdown restrictions, says PM Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work today after a three-week absence due to contracting coronavirus and said it was "too early" to ease the COVID-19 lockdown.
Speaking in front of Number 10, Johnson said he understood the concerns of retailers and entrepreneurs but easing up on restrictions too soon would risk a second spike of the coronavirus that would cause further, lasting damage to the economy.
“We must... recognise the risk of a second spike and letting the reproduction rate go back over one. That would not only be a new wave of death and disease but also an economic disaster and we would be forced once again to slam on the brakes across the whole country and whole economy and reimpose restrictions.
“I refuse to throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people.”
"I ask you to contain your impatience because I believe now we are coming to the end of the first phase of this conflict," he said.
He sought to assure the public that the UK was making progress in its fight against the disease that has so far claimed more than 20,000 lives, saying there were "real signs now we are passing through the peak".
Yesterday the British Retail Consortium issued guidelines, drawn up with USDAW, for the re-opening of non-essential retail when restrictions are lifted. They included introducing social distancing measures, akin to those in place in supermarkets, and the closure of fitting rooms.
Any re-opening of non-essential retail is likely to be phased with retailers focusing on those areas where demand will be highest first and other measures, such as limited opening hours, are likely to be in place for some time.
All non-essential retail has been closed since 23 March. Experts predict that clothing retailers may begin re-opening in early June. The next review of the current lockdown arrangements is due to take place on 7 May.