Boris Johnson plans to unveil his ‘roadmap’ for easing lockdown measures on in a speech on Sunday evening.
But in an unusual move for a government expert, National Statistician Professor Sir Ian Diamond gave his ‘personal view’ on plans to ease social distancing measures.
Interjecting at the end of the briefing, where he flanked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, he said: “All the data that we are looking at shows the success of social distancing.
“And if I may give a personal view then I do believe that social distancing and maintaining it over the next few weeks is going to be central to continuing reducing the epidemic.”
The Office for National Statistics chief said Professor John Edmunds was right that the infection rate – R – had probably gone up in the past fortnight.
“That is driven by the epidemic in care homes, he would say and I would not demur from that,” Sir Ian told the Downing Street press conference.
“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.”
He said that “at the moment we need, certainly, to get on top of the epidemic in care homes and in hospitals” but “in the community we have things relatively low at the moment”.
It came after Mr Raab said any short term changes would be “modest, small, incremental and very carefully monitored.”
(Image: 10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty)
Mr Raab told the Downing Street press conference: “The virus is not beaten yet, it remains deadly and infectious.”
He confirmed Boris Johnson will use an address on Sunday to set out the “roadmap” to easing the lockdown.
“This weekend the Prime Minister will set out the next steps which we can responsibly take over the following weeks, guided by the scientific advice and mindful – as we said right from the word go – of taking the right decisions at the right time.
“Now we can start setting out how we will live and work whilst maintaining the necessary social distancing rules, we can also be clear about those measures which are still necessary to prevent a second peak.”
He went on to describe this as “very delicate and a very dangerous moment”.
The PM told today’s Cabinet that “in considering whether there could be any easement in the existing guidelines, that we are not going to do anything that risks a second peak”, his spokesman said.
Mr Johnson told ministers: “We will advance with maximum caution in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
“We will be guided at every step by the science and the data and we will closely track the impact of any easing of the social distancing measures and will not hesitate to tighten the rules if required.”
The PM’s spokesman warned: “Any easement to the guidelines next week will be very limited.
“We are at a critical moment in the fight against the virus and we will not do anything which risks throwing away the efforts and sacrifices of the British public.”