UK extends lockdown by ‘at least three weeks’; poll suggests public backing


A girl stands on the edge of a car window to get a better view ahead of a national "clap for carers" to show thanks for the work of frontline workers around the country as they battle the coronavirus pandemic, at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, on April 16, 2020. (Photo: ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images)
A girl stands on the edge of a car window to get a better view ahead of a national "clap for carers" to show thanks for the work of frontline workers around the country as they battle the coronavirus pandemic, at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, on April 16, 2020. (Photo: ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images)

THE UK extended its nationwide lockdown on Thursday (16) as stand-in leader Dominic Raab ordered Britons to stay at home for at least another three weeks to prevent the spread of a coronavirus outbreak which has already claimed over 138,000 lives globally.

“We have just come too far, we’ve lost too many loved ones, we’ve already sacrificed far too much to ease up now, especially when we are beginning to see the evidence that our efforts are starting to pay off,” he told reporters.

Raab is deputising while Prime Minister Boris Johnson recuperates from Covid-19 complications that nearly cost him his life.

Raab chaired an emergency meeting on Thursday (16) to review scientific evidence on the impact of the existing lockdown. “Based on this advice… the government has decided that the current measures must remain in place for at least the next three weeks,” he said.

“Relaxing any of the measures currently in place would risk damage to both public health and the economy.”

A YouGov poll conducted before the announcement showed 91 per cent of Britons supported a three-week extension to the lockdown

The UK has the fifth-highest official death toll from Covid-19 in the world, after the United States, Italy, Spain and France, though British figures only cover hospital fatalities and the real number is probably much higher.

The announcement, which had been widely expected, means Britons must stay at home unless they are shopping for basic necessities, or meeting medical needs. Citizens are allowed to exercise in public once a day, and can travel to work if they are unable to work from home.

The measures were announced on March 23 for an initial three-week period. Medical advisers speaking alongside Raab said they had reduced the overall rate of transmission of the virus to below 1, meaning it was now shrinking in the community.

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the virus would “run rampant” if restrictions were lifted too soon.

Raab set out five loose conditions which must be met for the lockdown to be lifted.

But he refused to discuss any possible timeline – despite a growing political clamour for an ‘exit strategy’ to the most severe restrictions on daily life in British peacetime history.

Labour leader Kier Starmer said he supported the extended restrictions, but added: “We also need clarity about what plans are being put in place to lift the lockdown when the time is right.”

As leaders around the world begin to contemplate ways to exit the shutdown, epidemiologists have cautioned that a second wave of the outbreak could endanger the weak and elderly.

Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London who advises the government, said Britain would probably have to maintain some level of social distancing until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is available.

“If we relax measures too much then we will see a resurgence in transmission,” he told BBC radio. “If we want to reopen schools, let people get back to work, then we need to keep the transmission down in another manner.”