- The UK’s lockdown is set to be extended until next month with new public restrictions under consideration on driving and exercise.
- Ministers are set to announce the extension early next week with the Welsh government already confirming the move.
- “We need to keep bearing down on the rate of transmission, which will mean continuing with social distancing measures,” Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday.
- The UK government is also considering toughening up the lockdown with police chiefs calling for new restrictions on driving and exercise.
- The decision comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care where he is being treated for the coronavirus.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The UK government is preparing to extend the national coronavirus lockdown until at least May, with police chiefs calling for tough new restrictions on driving and personal exercise.
The prime minister’s spokesman indicated on Thursday that current restrictions will continue beyond next week.
“We need to keep bearing down on the rate of transmission, which will mean continuing with social distancing measures and to ensure we are protecting the NHS and saving lives,” Johnson’s spokesman said.
The UK imposed its national lockdown, which restricts people to their homes unless they have essential reasons for leaving, last month for an initial three-week period.
However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Prime Minister Johnson while he is in intensive care, will chair a meeting of UK ministers and leaders of the devolved nations on Thursday, at which they are expected to agree on the principle of an extension.
The formal UK announcement is expected next week. However, the Welsh First Minister has already confirmed that restrictions in the principality will be extended.
The decision comes as the UK government is facing calls to introduce stricter social distancing rules as the UK heads towards Easter weekend, with warm weather forecasted across the country.
The Guardian newspaper reports that at least five chief constables in the UK police have proposed stopping people driving long distances in their cars, and being stricter in limiting people to one piece of exercise a day.
“We need to say you can’t drive,” one police chief told the paper.
They added that the law should change to force members of the public to prove that their decision to leave home was reasonable.
“The burden needs to be on the individual not the state to prove reasonableness,” they said.
“If the test changes, a lot less people would think: ‘Rover does not need to be driven to a national park today.'”
“If people don’t stick with the instructions then they [the government] may well have to consider additional measures,”
The paper reports that the UK government is considering tougher restrictions, such as “restricting exercise to once a day and a stronger duty on public authorities to ensure open spaces, such as parks and other open-air attractions, do not get crowded.”
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned last week that the government could impose a ban on exercise if the public continues to flout social-distancing rules.
“If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home then you’ve got to follow the rules,” Hancock told the BBC.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman downplayed the possibility of new restrictions being imposed.
“We’ve always said that if the scientific advice suggests further steps are needed, we’d be prepared to take them but for now our focus is on ensuring the steps we already have in place are properly enforced,” he told a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.
However, they hinted that new rules could be imposed if the public start to flout current guidelines on travel.
“What we’ve set out is that there shouldn’t be any unnecessary travel taking place. I think the guidelines on that are very clear,” he said.
The UK government’s scientific advisers believe the lockdown’s impact is beginning to be seen in a flattening of the increase in new cases and hospital admissions.
” You’ve heard from a variety of the government’s own scientific and medical experts in recent days,” Johnson’s spokesman said.
“I think they have spoken in terms of seeing some flattening in the transmission of this disease, but it’s too early to say specifically when the peak will be.”
The UK is currently bracing itself for continuing increases in deaths from the virus over the coming weeks after the daily death toll reached a new high of 938 on Wednesday, April 8.
UK under pressure to spell out ‘exit strategy’
The UK government is also facing pressure to spell out a broad vision of its “exit strategy” from the coronavirus.
Keir Starmer, the new leader of the Labour Party, on Wednesday evening called on Johnson’s government to “to set out what the strategy is here,” adding that it’d be a “good thing” for public to see a way out of the lockdown.
Government figures recently suggested that the peak of the UK’s coronavirus crisis will be this Easter weekend. However, government officials now believe the peak could be up to 10 days away, according to multiple reports.
There is a variety of scientific opinion on when the UK will be able to start relaxing social distancing rules, and what form relaxation will actually take.
The Financial Times reports UK ministers are considering at a Warwick University suggestion that young adults, classified as 20-30 year olds who don’t live with their parents, should be the first group of people to be released.