The UK could “get going” with easing some lockdown measures from Monday, Boris Johnson has signalled.
The prime minister suggested a “phase two” plan for tackling coronavirus now infection numbers have peaked might come into force the day after he gives an update on the lockdown on Sunday.
“We’ll want if we possibly can to get going with some of these measures on Monday,” he told MPs at his first clash with new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in parliament on Wednesday.
“I think it would be a good thing if people had an idea of what’s coming the following day.”
He did not spell out exactly how or which strict distancing measures will be tweaked.
The UK has been in lockdown for seven weeks with recorded deaths at more than 29,000 making it the highest figure in Europe.
Ministers and scientific advisers have stressed the country has passed the initial peak and that a new strategy of “test, track and trace” will be rolled out to stop further spikes overwhelming the NHS.
That will see Britons encouraged to download an app that monitors if they have been near a person with COVID-19 symptoms and told to self-isolate on a household-by-household basis.
Mr Johnson set a new target of 200,000 tests a day by the end of May, following the 100,000 goal Health Secretary Matt Hancock set himself by the end of April.
But he was accused of being slow on increasing test capacity, going into lockdown in the first place and on ensuring health and social care staff have adequate supplies of protective equipment by Sir Keir.
The Labour leader’s spokesman also said Mr Johnson “should be making a statement to the Commons” about the plans when they are officially announced so MPs can question them.
At PMQs, Sir Keir raised the size of the death toll that has well exceeded the 20,000 estimate the government’s chief scientific adviser previously said would be a “good outcome”.
“That’s not success or apparent success, so can the prime minister tell us how on earth did it come to this?” he asked.
Mr Johnson said the statistic was “appalling” and that “every death is a tragedy” but warned: “At this stage I don’t think international comparisons and the data is yet there to draw all the conclusions that we want.”
Sir Keir hit back by claiming the argument “doesn’t hold water” since the government publishes the number of total deaths each day as part of its slides release at the Downing Street news conferences.
Earlier on Twitter the prime minister said he recognised the “hardship” people were going through by adhering to the lockdown, urging: “Please keep going.”
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