Jeremy Hunt urges ministers not to ease Covid restrictions until infections drop to '1,000 a day or less'

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: JURE MAKOVEC/AFP/Getty Images

Tory former health minister Jeremy Hunt has said Covid cases should drop to '1,000 a day or less' before lifting restrictions - Credit: JURE MAKOVEC/AFP/Getty Images

Tory former health minister Jeremy Hunt has urged caution about reports of Covid restriction being mostly gone by May.

Speaking with the Guardian, Hunt said cases should drop to 1,000 per day before re-opening the economy.

Hunt's remarks come as lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs are calling for measures to be lifted entirely by June.

On Thursday, Mark Harper, the Chair of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) group, called on ministers to lift all coronavirus restrictions in just three months.

Ministers are also hoping to lift restrictions in line with the timeline, a Whitehall source has told the Daily Mail.

However, Hunt, incumbent chair of the Commons health select committee, has called on ministers to follow a more cautious approach.

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He said No 10 should aim to suppress Covid cases to a number low enough to allow for a 'South Korean-style approach' of intensive contact tracing - acknowledging some restrictions will need to be in place for an extended period of time.

"I think we have to recognise that the game has changed massively over Christmas with these new variants," he told the Guardian. "We mustn’t make the mistake that we made last year of thinking that we’re not going to have another resurgence of the virus."

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He is reported to have called for cases to be brought down to "1,000 new infections a day or less" before re-opening the economy.

This comes as chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the UK was probably past the peak of infections, they remain "incredibly high" and could quickly rise again without restriction, plunging the NHS "back into trouble extraordinarily fast".

He said that the number of people in hospital is still higher than in the first peak in April last year and went on to warn that the number of deaths would "stay high for quite some time".

A further 1,322 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, the government said, while there were another 19,202 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

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