Boris Johnson hits back at scientists' lockdown warnings – saying lifting measures WON'T push R above one
At the weekend several prominent advisers to the Government came out to warn that any tweaking of rules would have an effect on spreading coronavirus once again.
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Today hundreds of thousands of children went back to school and car showrooms and outdoor markets opened up again, in the latest lifting of lockdown rules.
And people can now meet in a group of up to six – as long as it's outside and people stay 2m apart.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan backed those urging caution today – saying the Government was "rushing" to restart the economy.
But this lunchtime No10 hit back, saying their evidence suggested that reopening schools and sending people back to work would not see the virus grow exponentially again.
The PM's spokesperson said: "Based on the scientific advice and having test and trace up and running, its our position that if the public follow the social distancing guidance, the measures we have taken aren’t likely to push the R rate above one."
They added: "We are easing measures in a very gradual way.
"We have test and trace to identify new cases of the virus.
"We are meeting the five tests, which we set, and that's what's allowed us to make the cautious easements that we have.
"But we keep everything under review."
Downing Street has repeatedly said that local lockdowns are on the cards if the virus does start to spread again.
And Business Secretary Alok Sharma said he understands parents' concerns about going back to school from today – but added that the Government had not undertaken a "dash" to re-start the economy.
Mr Sharma told BBC Breakfast: "This is not a dash. These are very cautious steps that we are taking. They are phased."
He said that he "completely" understands that "every parent wants to keep their child safe", but insisted the Government had taken steps to ensure schools are safe to return to.
At the weekend Prof John Edmunds, who sits on the Sage committee, said many experts would "prefer" to see the number of Covid-19 infections drop further before measures like meeting up with family and friends are introduced.
He said: "I think at the moment with relatively high incidents, relaxing the measures and with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.
"Even if that risk doesn't play out and we keep the incidents flat, we're keeping it flat at quite a high level."
And Sir Jeremy also said the newly-introduced NHS test-and-trace system needed to be "fully working" before measures were eased.
Last night health officials also warned that the relaxed measures were "not supported by the science" and the Government's own five tests – designed to avoid a second spike – were not being met.
The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said pictures of crowded beaches and beauty spots over the weekend showed "the public is not keeping to social distancing as it was".
They added that the NHS test and trace programme "is currently far from being the robust operation that is now urgently required as a safeguard to easing restrictions".
It comes after documents from scientists advising the government revealed that a second peak is "inevitable as relaxing measures will push R rate above 1 again".
The minutes from a Sage meeting held on May 5 but published on Friday, suggest easing back to what resembles a more "normal" life is highly likely to trigger a second spike of cases.
Experts warned that phase four – likely to be in place from July – is "highly likely" to push the crucial R rate above 1 – meaning that the epidemic would grow.