Widespread lockdown easing ‘wholly unreasonable’

PUBLISHED: 19:52 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 07:06 23 April 2020

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Witty, Foreign secretary Dominic Raab and Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: PA.

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Witty, Foreign secretary Dominic Raab and Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter during a media briefing in Downing Street. Picture: PA.

The wholesale lifting of the lockdown is a “wholly unreasonable” expectation, England’s chief medical officer said.

Professor Chris Whitty said any easing of the measures must not allow the disease to spread exponentially and overwhelm the NHS.

He spoke at the daily government press briefing which also set out the efforts of the military to support the NHS, including the roll-out of pop-up mobile testing centres.

Read more: Eight more coronavirus deaths reported in Norfolk’s hospitals

Professor Whitty said: “We have to be very realistic. If people are hoping it’s suddenly going to move from where we are in lockdown to where suddenly everything is gone, that is a wholly unrealistic expectation.

“In the long run, the exit from this is going to be one of two things, ideally.

“A vaccine, and there are a variety of ways they can be deployed... or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.

“Until we have those, and the probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small and I think we should be realistic about that, we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment.”

He added: “We are going to have to do a lot of things for really quite a long period of time, the question is what is the best package and this is what we’re trying to work it.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab praised the public’s efforts during the lockdown and stated the country was not “out of the woods yet”.

Mr Raab, who is deputising for the Prime Minister, told the daily press conference: “The greatest risk for us now, if we eased up on our social distancing rules too soon, is that we would risk a second spike in the virus with all the threats to life that would bring and then the risk of a second lockdown which would prolong the economic pain we are all going through.”

General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, described the support the military had been giving to the NHS as the “single greatest logistical challenge that I have come across”.

Read more: Journalists are right to probe government on ‘what happens next’

Speaking about mobile test centres, General Sir Nick said: “We think the innovative idea of pop-ups, rather like mobile libraries, would be a very useful way of going.

“What we are trying to do at the moment is up-scale that idea so that we have enough capacity to get out into those areas which are harder to reach.

“It is an overall system that is being put together at the moment, it will be very sophisticated once it is completed and there are some really good people designing it and we are working with those people to make it as good as it possibly can be.”

He added more armed forced personnel could be deployed if required.

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