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Dominic Raab says it is 'far too early' to relax UK's coronavirus lockdown despite 'positive signs'

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

PA

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that it is "far too early" to talk about relaxing Covid-19 lockdown measures despite "positive signs" from official data.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Raab said figures indicated the UK was "starting to win this struggle" against the virus but warned it was “still not past the peak”.

He praised the British public for staying at home during the Easter weekend, adding: “Our plan is working.

"Please stick with it and we’ll get through this crisis together."

Three weeks into the nation-wide lockdown Mr Raab said the Government did not expect to make any changes following a review of social-distancing measures by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) later this week.

Mr Raab’s comments came after the coronavirus-related hospital death toll passed 11,000, with the Foreign Secretary facing questions over whether more lives could have been saved if the UK had acted faster.

He rejected any "like-for-like" comparison with other countries, saying it depended on each nation's individual circumstances and how far along the coronavirus outbreak curve they were.

But the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK would be looking to learn from other countries on how they approach releasing lockdown measures.

Questions were also raised about whether the number of coronavirus-related deaths in care homes were being properly recorded.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said he wanted testing in the sector to be increased due to the “large numbers of vulnerable people” at risk.

The Department of Health said 11,329 people had died in hospitals as of 5pm on Sunday, with many more expected in care homes.

It means the UK has more recorded deaths than any country except the US, Italy, Spain and France.

Mr Raab admitted the government had been “concerned” that the public “might start ignoring the advice or cutting corners given the temptation to go out into the sunshine” over the Easter weekend.

But he added: "In fact the overwhelming majority of people stayed at home and understood the importance of doing so.

"By staying home this weekend, you've saved lives."

Earlier Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman maintained the UK was still on course to carry out the Government’s pledge of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month as he said 18,000 had been conducted in the 24 hours to Sunday morning.

The spokesman said there had been “significant progress” in the attempt to improve testing of frontline NHS workers, with nearly 43,000 staff and their families tested so far.

Latest figures from the Department of Health showed 14,506 tests on 10,745 people were carried out on Sunday, excluding data from Northern Ireland.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the Prime Minister had tested negative for coronavirus on leaving hospital following his admission to an intensive care unit and would follow medical advice on when to return to work.

A review of lockdown measures will take place by Thursday, the deadline set out in law.

Ministers have said they want to be sure the UK is past the peak of the outbreak before easing the restrictions, but 10 members of the Cabinet are reportedly urging lockdown conditions to be eased amid concerns about the impact on the economy.

PA Media