Lockdown extension and strategy - 16 April

For those who missed the daily briefing, here is the message from government on the extension of lockdown and the tests for adjusting current lockdown measures:

There are indications that the measures we have put in place have been successful in slowing down the spread of the virus. But SAGE also say that it is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.

Overall, we still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to. As in other countries, we have issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes.

In sum, the very clear advice we have received is that any change to our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus.That would threaten a second peak of the virus, and substantially increase the number of deaths.It would undo the progress made to date, and as a result, would require an even longer period of the more restrictive social distancing measures.So early relaxation would do more damage to the economy over a longer period.

The advice from SAGE is that relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and our economy.

Based on this advice, the Government has determined that current measures must remain in place for at least the next 3 weeks. In terms of the decisions that lie ahead, we want to be as up front with the British people as we possibly can. We have set out five specific things which the Government will need to be satisfied of before we will considerit safe to adjust any of the current measures.

First, we must protect the NHS's ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.

Second, we need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.

Third, we need to have reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.

Fourth, we need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.

Fifth, and this is really crucial, we need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.The worst thing we could do now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of the virus to hit the NHS and hit the British people. It would be the worst outcome, not just for public health, but for the economy and for our country as a whole.

We will soon be able totest 100,000 people every day.That will give us greater understanding of the scope of infection across the country. It will also help us plan how to change the measures when we are ready to. When we are confident on these five points, guided by science and data, we will look to adjust the measures to make them as effective as possible in protecting public health, while allowing some economic and social activity to resume.

We will only do it, when the evidence demonstrates that is safe to do it. It could involve relaxing measures in some areas, while strengthening measures in other areas. But in formulating the right balance we will be at all times guided by the scientific advice and the evidence. We recognise all the economic and social impact the current measures are having. That is why we put in place an unprecedented package of support for jobs and businesses, as well as for hospices and charities who are doing so much to support the most vulnerable in our society.We are as being as open as we responsibly can at this stage. And it would not be responsible to pre-judge the evidence that SAGE will have and review in just a few weeks’ time.

We know some people will look at other countries, and ask why the UK isn’t doing what they’re doing. We can reassure people that we carefully follow what is happening in other countries.We will always look to learn any lessons in how they are approaching their response.Ultimately, we have to do what is right for the British people, based on the advice of our experts.Grounded in the conditions here in the UK, and we will make those decisions at the right time for this country