Coronavirus UK

Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street and plans for ‘new normal’

In his first speech since returning to London, the Prime Minister reiterated the need for the current lockdown measures but believes the UK is “on the brink” of turning the tide against the coronavirus outbreak.

Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street and plans for ‘new normal’
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/dpa Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/dpa

Boris Johnson is back at No 10 for the first time in nearly a month after testing positive for coronavirus in early April. After a week at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, including a spell in intensive care, he had spent recent weeks recovering at his country residence. A group of senior ministers had been leading the government’s response in his absence, most notably Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

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Speaking on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Raab announced that social distancing measures will be required “for some time, but that the government are looking to find “a new normal” with schools, sport and businesses likely to be the first to see restrictions lifted.

Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street on Sunday evening and used his first speech this morning to urge people to observe the lockdown during what he called “the moment of maximum risk”.

He described the coronavirus as a mugger that the UK has begun “to wrestle to the floor” but warned against “wondering whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures”.

Yesterday’s reported death toll was down to 413, the lowest recorded in the month of April. There have been concerns about the accuracy of reported figures, particularly when relating to weekends, but the general trend does appear to be more optimistic.

Mr Johnson said there are now “fewer hospital admissions, fewer COVID patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak”.

“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.”

However he warned that to prematurely ease off on the fight against coronavirus would be to "throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak".

He also reiterated the government’s five tests to assess when the country is able to see restrictions loosened: “deaths falling, NHS protected, rate of infection down, really sorting out the challenges of testing and PPE, and avoiding a second peak”.

Garden gnomes wearing surgical face masks in the village of Great Houghton on April 26, 2020 in Northampton, England.

The PM will take part in a number of catch-up meetings with individual cabinet ministers in a bid to get fully up to speed with the government’s response in his absence. He is also expected to chair a number of ‘war cabinet’ meetings this week to revaluate the UK’s long-term strategy having now spent five weeks in lockdown.