Tuesday 28 April 2020

Boris Johnson's lockdown exit plan 'could let Britons go out to see family and friends in "bubbles" of TEN people, council tips reopen THIS weekend, and everyone told to wear DIY masks' - but schools 'will stay closed until June'

Boris Johnson is mulling a blueprint to loosen the coronavirus lockdown that could let family and friends mix in 'bubbles' - as well as reopening more public services and urging more people to return to work as early as this weekend.

Britons could be allowed to choose 10 people they can socialise with in an easing of draconian restrictions that have split families over the past month, despite the risk that the outbreak could return.

Ministers are also looking at getting public services such as tips up and running in a matter of days, although sources stressed that they had never been formally ordered to close and it is a decision for local authorities.

Garden centres and other shops where social distancing can be most enforced could follow shortly afterwards, while ministers are also drawing up plans to bolster rail services as more of the nation's workforce is encouraged to return. 

Shoppers and passengers will likely be instructed to fashion a homemade mask while floor markings will enforce the two-metre separation rule, an insider told the Daily Telegraph. 

However, despite the frantic work going on in Whitehall, the timetable for easing the curbs that are strangling the economy is far from certain. The lockdown is not officially due to be reviewed until May 7, and scientists have been warning that even small changes could spark a deadly new peak and inflict even worse damage.

Downing Street has been playing down the prospect of schools opening before June - regarded by many as essential for a wide-scale reopening of UK plc. 

The outline of the plan is emerging after the PM returned to work yesterday and braced the public for a 'new normal' which will juggle the need to revive the economy with limiting the threat of the infection running rampant again. 

Although he offered a glimmer of hope and said the exit strategy will be fleshed out 'in the coming days', Mr Johnson also cautioned that the UK is at a moment of 'maximum risk' and the public must be 'patient'.

In another desperate day in the fight against coronavirus: 

Back at the helm after three weeks recovering from his own battle with the virus, Mr Johnson was on top form as he chaired meetings with his most senior ministers.

The 55-year-old premier ditched Zoom despite appeals from advisers to avoid appearing in person and walked confidently into a packed cabinet room for his 9.15am meeting.

Social distancing rules were 'pushed to the limit', with so many ministers back at Number 10, according to The Times.    

During Mr Johnson's absence, his de facto deputy Dominic Raab has remained tight-lipped over an exit strategy out lockdown.

But reports from insiders last night suggested a plan had been fleshed out for the country to creep out of lockdown.

Of one of the most eye-catching plans to insist on masks, a Whitehall source told the Telegraph: 'The plan for masks will be more than a recommendation. It is more of a compulsion for them to be worn in shops and on public transport. 

'On social distancing, transport bosses will need to have two-metre markers in place so people can safely keep their distance.'    

The PM hinted at a change to the lockdown yesterday morning as he addressed the nation on the steps of Downing Street. 

In his first public appearance since he was hospitalised with coronavirus, Mr Johnson said he had been 'away from my desk for much longer than I would've liked'. 

He said: 'Once again I want to thank you the people of this country for the sheer grit and guts you've shown and are continuing to show.

'Every day I know that this virus brings new sadness and mourning to households across the land.'

Mr Johnson said: 'It is still true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war and me in no way minimise the continuing problems we face.

'And yet it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer Covid patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak.

'And thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere.

'And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide.' 

Mr Johnson, drawing on his own battle with Covid-19 which put him in intensive care, said: 'If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger - which I can tell you from personal experience, it is - then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.

'And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk.

'I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.'

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