Dominic Raab warned tonight that the UK risks a second lockdown if people don’t stick to the current social distancing rules.
The Foreign Secretary, who is charge of the government while Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to recuperate from coronavirus, said we are ‘making progress but we are not out of the woods yet’.
He added that the ‘greatest risk’ if we ease on social distancing measures too soon is a ‘second spike’ in COVID-19 and a ‘second lockdown’.
This is why restrictions must remain in the place for time being, he said.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday (April 22), Mr Raab warned that if the government did need to impose a lockdown for a second time, this would ‘prolong the economic pain we are all going through’.
He said: “We are making progress through the peak of this virus but we’re not out of the woods yet, as Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advised last week.
“That’s why the measures we introduced must remain in place for the time being.
“The greatest risk for us now, if we eased up on our social distancing rules too soon, is that we would risk a second spike in the virus with all the threats to life that would bring and then the risk of a second lockdown which would prolong the economic pain we are all going through.”
Sir Carter said the armed forces have been giving support to the Department of Health and Social Care and to the NHS, but that they have come across ‘logistical challenges’.
He said between 3,000 and 4,000 members of the armed forces have been involved in the response to the pandemic – a further 20,000 people are on standby.
The number of people who have died in hospital in the UK after contracting coronavirus rose by 763 on Wednesday.
The death toll has increased to 18,100 from 17,337 at the same point yesterday, according to the latest update from the Department of Health.
Mr Raab added that testing will play a ‘really important’ role in the next phase of the crisis.
He spoke alongside Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter who addressed the involvement of the armed forces in the fight against the virus.