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Johnson set to lift part of UK lockdown every two weeks

Prime minister to reveal plan in a televised address on Sunday

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Plan: Boris Johnson will set out a rough timetable for when measures will be lifted. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Plan: Boris Johnson will set out a rough timetable for when measures will be lifted. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

REUTERS

Plan: Boris Johnson will set out a rough timetable for when measures will be lifted. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Boris Johnson could lift parts of the UK lockdown every two weeks under plans being discussed by ministers.

The British cabinet will meet on Sunday to agree a "road map" for lifting the lockdown which will be revealed by the prime minister in a televised address to the nation that evening.

He will also set out a rough timetable for when key measures will be lifted, such as schools and shops reopening, but will describe tough "milestones" that must first be reached.

It means it is likely to be several months before the lockdown is lifted in full, with bars, restaurants and indoor events among the last on the list.

Mr Johnson told cabinet ministers yesterday that he wants to be able to show the nation "light at the end of the tunnel" after more than six weeks of lockdown, and ordered them to come up with dates for when they expected to be able to lift measures that come under their departmental remits. But he stressed he would "advance with maximum caution" and that any decision to lift restrictions would be subject to "maximum conditionality", backed by scientific evidence.

Mr Johnson may also reveal the latest "R" value, which measures the rate of infection, to reassure the public that it is safe to relax measures.

Meanwhile, Belgians have been told to pick four relatives or friends who will be allowed to visit them at home, as the country prepares to further ease its coronavirus lockdown.

The edict is ripe with potential for social embarrassment and the brewing of simmering resentments, as citizens make their selections which they cannot change.

But the reunions are likely to be surreal affairs as social distancing measures must still be observed.

The "buddy system", which comes into force eight days earlier than planned, on Belgium's Mothering Sunday, will be hard to enforce.

But Sophie Wilmes, the prime minister, told people they must respect the rule or risk a return to the stricter lockdown measures and a second wave of infection.

She also confirmed all shops will reopen on Monday but under strict social-distancing restrictions.

Belgium is planning to hire 2,000 call-centre "corona detectives" rather than rely on a phone tracing app, which the authorities don't believe enough people will download to make it useful.

Belgium, which has a population of 11.5 million, has the highest per capita death rate from coronavirus in the world which has been put down to its meticulous reporting system.

The country has recorded 50,781 cases and 8,415 deaths.

Sweden's state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has said that the success or failure of the country's less restrictive coronavirus strategy depends almost entirely on whether the authorities can get the number of infections in care homes under control.

Last week, a union health-and-safety officer reported Berga Elderly Care to the authorities because 27 of its 96 residents had died in less than a month, at the same time as half of the home's staff were off sick.

Berga is perhaps the most shocking case of a situation seen all over Sweden. Coronavirus infections have been reported in more than three-quarters of care homes in Stockholm.

Nearly two-thirds of the 2,941 who have died in the country with the virus have been over 80. Some 90pc are over 70, while just under half, 948 people, were living in care homes.

If the authorities fail to get a grip on the situation, Tom Britton, a mathematics professor at Stockholm University, estimates that the final death toll could sit between 8,000 and 20,000.

Spain weighed up further steps to bring life back to normal as the coronavirus epidemic ebbed, but the capital Madrid and the city of Barcelona could remain under tight restrictions for the time being.

Both cities and their surroundings have registered the highest number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the global pandemic.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government is anxious to get the country up and running again without igniting a second wave of infections as the economy reels and Spaniards gradually emerge from nearly eight weeks under lockdown.

Parliament voted on Wednesday night to extend a state of emergency for two more weeks from Sunday.

This gives the government power to control people's movements as it relaxes the lockdown, which succeeded in curbing the outbreak.

The Health Ministry gave Spain's coronavirus death toll for the past 24 hours as 213 on Thursday, down from 244 the previous day and far below peaks of nearly 1,000 in early April.

Deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 274 on Thursday, against 369 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new infections declined marginally to 1,401 from 1,444 on Wednesday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk