UK “past the peak” of coronavirus, prime minister says
Speaking at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing from Downing Street, prime minister Boris Johnson said that the UK is now “past the peak” of Covid-19.
It was Johnson’s first appearance at a daily briefing since being hospitalised with the virus himself.
Johnson said that the government was now “massively ramping up” testing and a “comprehensive plan” would be set out next week on rebooting the economy, reopening schools and helping more people travel to work.
The official death toll as of Thursday’s briefing had reached 26,771, including deaths in the community.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer approved of Johnson’s intent to produce plans for easing the lockdown, saying it was a “step in the right direction”, yet the PM was wary of avoiding a second spike of the virus.
The government’s chief medical adviser Professor Chris Whitty warned that the reproduction rate of the virus must not be allowed to rise above one, saying that it would “restart exponential growth” and risk overwhelming the NHS.
The current UK wide reproduction rate of Covid-19 is thought to be between 0.6 and 0.9.
Johnson added that a second peak would “really do economic damage” and that the country would instead look to “unlock the economy gradually” while keeping the spread of the virus suppressed.
The PM stopped short of providing specific dates and times for when certain measures to ease the UK lockdown may be introduced, saying that the government continues to be “guided by the science”.
Meanwhile, housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said that the government is likely to either hit or “come close” to hitting its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests being carried out daily.
A little over 81,000 tests were conducted on Wednesday, and health secretary Matt Hancock had been aiming for 100,000 by the end of April. Thursday’s figures [April 30] are due to be released on Friday.
Jenrick told the BBC: "I don't have the figures yet, they'll be published later today... but it looks like we'll either meet the target or come close.”
Jenrick said that the target was “an important stepping stone” toward making testing more widely available, with the prime minister eventually looking to enable capacity for 250,000 daily tests to be carried out.