Dominic Raab rejects call for lockdown exit plan

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has rejected calls for ministers to set out an exit strategy from the lockdown amid mounting concern at the economic devastation that is being wrought.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaking during a remote press conference to update the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic

New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government over the weekend to spell out how it intended to lift the restrictions as the outbreak receded.

However, Mr Raab warned it was essential not to distract from the need to maintain social distancing as the epidemic approached its peak.

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives at 10 Downing Street for an update briefing on coronavirus

“The risk is if we start taking our eye off the ball, of tackling the coronavirus, stopping the spread and getting through the peak, we risk delaying the point at which we could in the future take those decisions on easing restrictions,” he said.

It comes as European countries that appear to have already reached the peak of infection, such as Germany, Austria and Denmark, announced moves towards an easing of restrictions in the next month.

Mr Raab’s warning was echoed by the chief medical officer for England – Professor Chris Whitty making his first public appearance since ending his self-isolation – who said it would be a “mistake” to discuss exit strategies until it was clear the peak had passed.

Prof Whitty said: “At that point I think it is possible to have a serious discussion about all the things we need to do step-by-step to move to the next phase of managing this. But I think to start having that discussion until we’re confident that that’s where we’ve got to, would I think be a mistake.”

He told reporters there were a “very large number of elements that need to be brought together” including antibody tests which have not yet been proven to work, and the future availability of vaccines and drugs.

Prof Whitty said health officials would also consider the risk of people dying directly from the virus itself, dying indirectly if the NHS became overwhelmed with cases, the effects of postponing other types of healthcare because of coronavirus, and the long-term health impact on people due to socioeconomic reasons.

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