Boris Johnson returns to work and urges public not to give up coronavirus fight
- Credit: PA
Boris Johnson has returned to work after his coronavirus recovery and delivered a speech warning the UK it needs to continue with the lockdown to avoid 'a new wave of deaths'.
Prime minister Boris Johnson told reporters outside 10 Downing Street that now was not the time 'to throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people' and urged everyone to follow the lockdown rules.
In his first statement since falling ill with the coronavirus, Johnson said the country was at 'peak risk' and that easing restriction now could unleash an 'economic disaster' and kill more people.
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He said:'I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.
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'I ask you to contain your impatience, because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict and in spite of all the suffering we have so nearly succeeded.
Likening the disease to a mugger, he said: 'This is the moment when we have begun, together, to wrestle it to the floor.'
Johnson called this crisis the largest and most dangerous the country have faced since the second world war and urged Britons to pull together and continue showing the 'same spirit of unity and determination as we have all shown in past six weeks'.
He said: 'I know it is tough. And I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS.'
In an insight into a possible lockdown exit strategy, the PM said he would not remove any restrictions until infection rates and death had dropped and until testing was ramped up to 100,000 tests per day and PPE stocks improved.
He added: 'Then that will be the time to move on to the second phase in which we continue to suppress the disease and keep the reproduction rate - the R rate - down, but begin gradually to refine the economic and social restrictions and one-by-one to fire up the engines of this vast UK economy.
'And in that process difficult judgments will be made and we simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly the government will be saying much more about this in the coming days.'
Johnson returns to a divided cabinet. Senior ministers like chancellor Rishi Sunak and business secretary Alok Sharma have called for an early lifting of restrictions after the Office for Budget Responsibility reported the country faced a 35% shrink in trade and more than two million people unemployed. Others, including Johnson, want to keep measures in place until infections drop below the rate of 1.0.
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