- The UK coronavirus lockdown could last up to three more months, according to a government minister.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reluctant to end the lockdown early because he fears a second peak of infections later this summer, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said.
- “The PM is very concerned about a second peak if we lift the restrictions too soon,” Dowden told the BBC.
- “The prime minister said he expected this peak to last around three months,” he added. “What’s happened is kind of consistent with that.”
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The UK coronavirus lockdown could remain in place for several months because of fears Britain could suffer a deadly second peak of infections, according to a senior member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said on Monday that Johnson was concerned that lifting current restrictions too soon would risk a second spike.
“The PM is very concerned about a second peak if we lift the restrictions too soon,” Dowden told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program on Monday morning.
Asked whether the lockdown would be wound back at the start of next month, as some recent reports suggest, he replied: “We said right at the beginning of this and the prime minister said he expected this peak to last around three months.
“What’s happened is kind of consistent with that,” he said.
A representative for Johnson confirmed on Monday that avoiding a second peak had become the government’s priority.
“The big concern is a second peak, and that will do the most damage to health and the economy,” the spokesman said.
“If you move too quickly, the virus could begin to spread exponentially again,” the person said. “The public will expect us to do every we can to stop the spread of the virus and protect life.”
The comments came after multiple reports suggested that schools could reopen as early as mid-May, with other restrictions being lifted in June.
Responding to the reports, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, insisted on Sunday that the government had not yet decided to reopen schools.
A further 596 people were confirmed on Sunday to have died of COVID-19 in UK hospitals, the lowest daily death toll in two weeks, which follows a pattern of figures suggesting the UK could be nearing the peak of infections.
But according to the Daily Mail newspaper, Johnson met with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary who is deputizing for him while he recovers from the virus, on Friday and told him that his “overriding concern” was avoiding a second peak.
Reports suggest there is a Cabinet split on the issue of how early the UK should begin to reopen the economy. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, are said to be “hawks” who are keen to begin lifting restrictions soon to stop millions of jobs from being destroyed, according to the Times of London newspaper.
The prime minister’s more cautionary approach to easing measures is backed by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, as well as his chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, The Times added.