People should not expect big changes to the coronavirus lockdown in Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation on Sunday, a cabinet minister has said.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast the speech would set out a “cautious” road map for the UK, rather than immediate alterations.
It comes amid concerns of mixed messaging across the four UK nations.
Meanwhile, the PM said the virus “demands the same spirit of national endeavour” seen on VE day 75 years ago.
Mr Dowden said Mr Johnson’s speech, at 19:00 BST on Sunday, would cautiously begin to look to the future, with limited amendments to restrictions to begin with.
“On Sunday, what the prime minister will do is set out the road map ahead,” he said.
“So we can start to look to the future, but we’ll have to do so in a very tentative and cautious way. People should not expect big changes from the prime minister on Sunday.
“But what they should expect, and this is what people have been asking for some time, tell us where we’re going. Give us a road map ahead. And that is what the prime minister will do.”
He added: “The worst thing that could happen is that after the huge effort we’ve all put in… we don’t want to have a second peak that overwhelms the NHS.”
The total number of people who have died with coronavirus in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK is 30,615 – a daily increase of 539, the latest figures show.
Newspapers reported UK government sources saying some lockdown measures will be lifted as early as Monday and the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuennsberg reported the “stay at home” slogan is on the way out.
Mr Johnson had also said in the Commons on Wednesday he wanted to possibly “get going” with some measures to ease lockdown on Monday.
But BBC Newsnight’s political editor Nicholas Watt said the government “had a wobble” after Mr Johnson “gave the impression to some people that more significant changes were on the way”.
And the Welsh and Scottish governments suggested No 10 had sent “mixed messages” about the lockdown.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to make their own decisions on lockdown regulations:
- In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already extended the lockdown there – saying it would be “potentially catastrophic” to end the “clear” message for people to stay at home;
- In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford is to announce his own plans during a press conference at 12:30 on Friday;
- In Northern Ireland, the executive has said there is “no headroom” yet to ease the lockdown.
No 10 has said Mr Johnson is in favour of a UK-wide approach, even if different parts begin to move at slightly different speeds based on the evidence for each nation.
Care homes ‘epidemic’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Thursday’s No 10 briefing the virus’ reproduction value – known as the R number – was between 0.5 and 0.9. UK public health bodies want the R number to stay below one.
John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MPs he believed the R number had risen in the past two weeks, despite the lockdown.
He said latest estimates put it currently between 0.75 and one.
Office for National Statistics chief Sir Ian Diamond Thursday’s briefing the assessment that the number had risen was driven by the spread in care homes.
“That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes and it’s one that I think – over the next few weeks from what I see happening – will happen,” Sir Ian said.
In other developments:
- People are being urged by ministers to continue obeying the lockdown this bank holiday weekend, despite sunny weather forecast in some areas
- The British ambassador to Turkey said that, while a small number of gowns from a supplier in the country failed safety tests, more gowns passed assessments for use in the NHS
- Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said everything must be done to care for the elderly
- There are plans to increase rail services from 18 May, in preparation for when the lockdown is eased
- The government missed its 100,000-per-day testing target for the fifth consecutive day on Thursday, providing 86,583 tests
- Meanwhile on the roads, the RAC says more people are now using their cars than earlier on in the lockdown
- The bosses of more than 60 organisations and businesses – including Iceland Foods, The Body Shop and Ben and Jerry’s – are calling for Mr Johnson to prioritise a “green” UK economic recovery
- The Royal Hospital Chelsea – the retirement home for British veterans – say said nine Chelsea Pensioners have died of coronavirus-related conditions
- Tributes have been paid to Mercury Prize-nominated rapper Ty who has died with coronavirus aged 47
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