Ministers torn between lifting coronavirus lockdown in May or waiting until summer

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks via videolink at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Bi

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks via videolink at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Birmingham, in the National Exhibition Centre (NEC). Photograph: Jacob King/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Ministers are said to be split over whether to lift the coronavirus lockdown at the start of May or to wait until the summer.

A number of ministers in cabinet are said to be frustrated the opportunity to debate the matter has been put on hold, with two strategies being considered at the top of government.

The Daily Mail reports that the first would 'push the numbers right down' by waiting until early summer to lift the lockdown, but there are fears of a bigger hit to the economy.

The second could see restrictions lifted after the latest extension runs out on May 8th, but there are fears this could risk a second peak in this phase of the coronavirus outbreak.

Waiting until the summer would force the transmission rates to an 'extremely low' level making it easier for the NHS to deal with the pandemic, and would also help with the capacity to trace cases and test contacts.

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But fears over the economy could lead to ministers opting on a shorter lockdown, but would leave the transmission rate at a higher level.

Experts believe social distancing measures, such as working from home where possible, will need to remain in place until there is a vaccine.

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There is scepticism that a phone app will be effective enough to control the outbreak, because 80% of the population would need to have downloaded it.

The government has denied claims it is in 'limbo' over exit strategies while Boris Johnson recovers from COVID-19.

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Johnson has been in contact with Raab during the week, but he is said to have avoided working on his government boxes.

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