Britain is past coronavirus peak, says PM Johnson
LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was now past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak and promised to set out a lockdown exit strategy next week, despite rising deaths and criticism of his government’s response.
Holding his first news conference since recovering from COVID-19, and a day after his fiancee gave birth, Johnson offered hope to locked-down Britons, but urged them to stick with restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus.
“I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease,” Johnson said. “We’re past the peak and we’re on the downward slope, and we have so many reasons to be hopeful for the long term.”
Nevertheless, Britain now has the second-highest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe with more than 26,000 deaths.
That has put pressure on the government over its response to the outbreak and is fuelling caution in lifting restrictions on movement in case that leads to a second spike.
But, with rising unemployment and many companies crippled, the government is coming under pressure to outline an exit strategy.
Johnson promised to set out next week a “menu of options” on how the lockdown could be relaxed, but said the exact dates of any change would be driven by scientific advice and data.
The government is also facing questions over its likely failure to meet a target Heath Minister Matt Hancock set of carrying out 100,000 daily tests for the virus by the end of April, with testing seen as key to ending the lockdown.
Johnson returned to work on Monday having recovered after being infected with the virus, which left him gravely ill in intensive care at the peak of the outbreak.
Delaying any paternity leave, he earlier headed a virtual meeting of his cabinet.
Johnson imposed strict economic and social limits six weeks ago to slow the spread of the virus, and his ministers have since repeatedly refused to discuss when it will end. Instead, the government has set five broad conditions which must be met before restrictions can be relaxed. – Reuters