Britain

Coronavirus lockdown changes will be ‘modest’ and ‘small’ – Raab

The public have been told not to expect widespread changes to the coronavirus lockdown in England when Boris Johnson addresses the nation this weekend.

Speaking at the daily COVID-19 briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said any short term changes to the coronavirus measures will be "modest, small, incremental and very carefully monitored".

In response to a question from Sky's political editor Beth Rigby, he added: "If we find in the future the R level [the rate of infection] goes back up or that people aren't following the rules, we must have the ability then to put back measures in place."

Image: Boris Johnson will address the nation on Sunday evening

Mr Raab also said the existing rules would continue to apply over the coming bank holiday weekend.

He added: "For the moment it is really important, particularly as people look towards a warm bank holiday weekend, that we continue to follow the guidance in place at this time."

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A total of 30,615 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, with the UK having the highest recorded death toll in Europe.

The lockdown was introduced on 23 March to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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By law it must be reviewed every three weeks, with the latest deadline falling on Thursday.

The prime minister will set out how some of the measures will be eased on Sunday evening, with some changes potentially taking effect as early as Monday.

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But people have been warned not to expect a widespread relaxation of the rules, with Downing Street insisting that the alterations will be "very limited".

Mr Johnson's spokesman said the PM would use "maximum caution" when starting to ease some of the strict social distancing measures.

"We are at a critical moment in the fight against the virus and we will not do anything that risks the progress the British public has made," he told journalists earlier on Thursday.

The comments came after a number of newspaper front pages ran with headlines featuring phrases like "lockdown freedom beckons" and "first steps to freedom", raising fears of mixed messages confusing the public.

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As part of the changes, the PM is preparing to amend the "stay at home" slogan and relax the one exercise a day limit.

With summer approaching, he may give the go-ahead to picnics, trips to the park and outings in the countryside.

But English primary schools are unlikely to re-open until the end of May, secondary schools not before the end of June and it could be the end of August before pubs and restaurants open their doors again.

Mr Raab said the government's roadmap for the next phase "contains appropriate measures to be taken at appropriate milestones, subject to very clear conditions".

"There will be detailed guidance to help inform, advise and reassure the public, businesses and other organisations," the foreign secretary said.

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