A senior minister has denied reports that the government has devised a graduated plan to start easing the coronavirus lockdown within weeks.
According to BuzzFeed News, Downing Street is considering a three-stage plan to ease the restrictions introduced last month to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
And the story appeared to gain further traction when it dominated the front pages of a number of Sunday’s newspapers.
The Mail on Sunday reported that schools and businesses could be allowed to reopen in mid-May.
Asked if it was correct that the government was considering a “traffic light” strategy to come out of lockdown, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “No, it is not.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also said “no decision has been made on when we will reopen schools”.
He added: “I can reassure schools and parents that they will only reopen when the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to do so.”
Mr Gove said the government was “looking at all of the evidence”, adding: “We have set some tests which need to be passed before we can think of easing restrictions in this lockdown.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown on 23 March, telling the public that it would be reviewed every three weeks.
The first review took place earlier this week, with the decision taken to extend the lockdown further by at least three weeks.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the PM as he recovers from the coronavirus, said that relaxing the measures would “risk damage to both public health and the economy”.
But there have been calls from some quarters for the government to lay out how it will eventually take Britain out of the lockdown and back to relative normality.
Ministers have argued that to do so now would dilute the government’s key message that people need to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
Mr Gove said it was “entirely understandable” that there should be a “public debate about how we approach these difficult choices”.
“But the most important thing to do is to make sure that we proceed in a way that is guided by science.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is among those calling for the UK to follow other countries in beginning to set out an exit plan “when the time is right”.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “This of course must be done in a careful, considered way with public health, scientific evidence and the safety of workers and families at its heart.
“But the UK government should be doing likewise.”
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