Britain is “turning the tide” in its fight to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, but must continue social-distancing measures to avoid a second peak of infections, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Johnson said this in his first speech on Monday since returning to work after his own infection with the virus.
He urged the public not to “throw away all the effort and sacrifice” and risk a second peak by lifting Britain’s near-lockdown too early.
“And yet, it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer COVID-19 patients in ICU (intensive care units) and real signs now that we are passing through the peak.
“I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social-distancing measures,” Johnson said
Johnson who was speaking outside Downing Street, however, warned that a second peak could lead to “economic disaster.”
He said that the government wanted to reduce the number of deaths and infections, protect health services and expand COVID-19 testing programmes.
He added that government also wanted to secure a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health staff before it moves to a “second phase” of responding to the pandemic.
It will then “begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions and one-by-one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.
“And in that process, difficult judgments will be made and we simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made,” Johnson said.
The Health Ministry reported another 360 deaths linked to COVID-19 infections on Monday, the lowest daily total for several weeks, but still taking Britain’s total to more than 21,000.
The ministry said it had confirmed 153,000 infections from 543,000 tests. Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of more have been infected.
“In most parts of the country, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus is beginning to fall,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told reporters later Monday.
But Hancock said it was “too early” to consider allowing schools to reopen, urging people to continue following social-distancing rules.