Boris Johnson to chair Cabinet as 100,000 tests a day deadline looms

30 April 2020, 06:05

Boris Johnson will chair the remote meeting on Thursday
Boris Johnson will chair the remote meeting on Thursday. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson is set to chair a meeting of his Cabinet as the Government approaches the deadline for carrying out 100,000 Covid-19 tests a day.

The Prime Minister's top team will meet remotely as they work out the next stage of the UK's response to coronavirus.

The Telegraph newspaper reported the PM will warn the nation not to expect major changes to the lockdown after it emerged Britain has one of the world’s worst coronavirus death rates.

The newspaper said Mr Johnson will use his first Downing Street press conference since his return to work to explain why social restrictions must largely remain in place.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is also meeting on Thursday, the group of scientific advisers is understood to be looking at a selection of options for easing restrictions while still keeping the reproduction rate of the coronavirus - the number of new cases linked to a single individual - below one in order to stop it spreading exponentially.

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The meeting comes as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said easing lockdown would not be a "flick of the switch moment".

Business Secretary Alok Sharma was reported to be set to put forward plans for an eventual "work place by work place" easing of lockdown in the coming days.

A Business Department spokesman said: "The Government has already set out five clear tests to consider before making any adjustment to its approach. It is only right the we work together with industry and unions to ensure workplaces are safe for both those in work now and for those going back to work as government measures develop."

It will not be known until Friday whether the Government has met its 100,000 a day test pledge.

Ms Sturgeon said she was "far from convinced" measures could be eased on the next review date of May 7.

The Scottish First Minister told ITV's Peston: "People talk about lifting the lockdown, that is not going to be a flick of the switch moment - we're going to have to be very careful, very slow, very gradual.

"I'm far from convinced at this stage that when we get to the next review point on the 7th of May we'll be in a position to lift any of these measures right now, because the margins of manoeuvre that we're operating in right now are very, very, very tight and narrow."

Downing Street said Thursday's Cabinet meeting would look at the "coronavirus response in general" but is not expected to make decisions on easing lockdown measures.

The Sun quoted a senior Downing Street source who said the PM will: “Talk about the progress we’ve made so far in slowing the spread of the virus, and how we won’t do anything that might risk a return to exponential growth”.

The comments came after Public Health England (PHE) announced a total of 26,097 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK after contracting Covid-19.

It is the first time data on the number of deaths in care homes and the wider community has been included in the Government's daily updates.

The total reached by the new method of reporting is around 17% higher than previous data showed and includes an additional 3,811 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.

Of these, around 70% were outside hospital settings and around 30% were in hospital.

The change in measurement means the UK death toll is now the third highest in the world, behind the US and Italy, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US has reported 58,355 deaths and Italy 27,359.

The Government pointed out other countries may report figures differently and any lag is unclear, although France and Italy also include deaths in care homes.

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