Public urged to stay home despite bank holiday sunshine and warned of 'limited moves' to lift lockdown
THE public should expect ‘limited’ changes to be made to the lockdown on Sunday as the Government looks to temper expectations over the lifting of the coronavirus-related restrictions.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the social-distancing rules currently in place had not been lifted for the bank holiday weekend, with the country on Friday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day, when victory was declared in Europe during the Second World War.
The lockdown is facing a major test from a long weekend of warm weather, and concerns of mixed messaging ahead of Boris Johnson's announcement on easing restrictions.
Mr Dowden told BBC Breakfast: ‘The situation remains exactly as it has been for several weeks, that is people should be staying at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. That hasn't changed.
‘Once again we have that temptingly sunny bank holiday weekend coming up but, please, people should not be leaving home except for the limited reasons we've already set out.’
With official data suggesting more than 36,000 people have died with coronavirus in the UK, the PM is set to unveil his ‘road map’ for easing the lockdown in a broadcast to the nation at 7pm on Sunday.
Mr Dowden said the Conservative Party leader would explain the stages involved in getting the country working again now that the rate of Covid-19 infections had been passed.
Officials will scrutinise the latest data on the spread of the disease, and ministers are expected to convene over the weekend before details are finalised for Sunday's announcement.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Dowden warned that if there was ‘any indication that things are starting to get out of control’ following the lockdown easing, the Government ‘won't hesitate to step back’ and reimpose certain bans on interactions.
He added: ‘The Prime Minister will set out the next steps.
‘But as I have been at pains to say... and as the Prime Minister said to us at Cabinet yesterday, the health of the nation comes first so we need to proceed with caution.
‘Expect limited moves to begin with and then, over time, if those are starting to work, we can start to go further and what we will be doing is setting out the different steps we could take further along the path so people know where we're going.’
In an indication of tensions between the devolved administrations, the Cabinet minister also confirmed the four UK nations could move at ‘different speeds’ when it comes to easing the lockdown.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, speaking to BBC Breakfast, said there would be only ‘nuanced changes’ in the region.
Her Scottish counterpart, Nicola Sturgeon, warned on Thursday that she would not be ‘pressured’ by the Westminster Government into ‘prematurely’ easing restrictions in Scotland.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce his own plans during a press conference at 12.30pm on Friday.
The Welsh Government has warned of sending out ‘mixed messages’, after newspaper reports suggested sunbathing and picnics could be permitted as early as Monday.