Coronavirus: Too early to ease lockdown, says senior Tory as Boris Johnson under mounting pressure
Prime minister has discussed idea of ‘modifying’ restrictions, according to reports
A senior Tory minister has warned that “we’re not there yet” on lifting the coronavirus lockdown as the government came under sustained pressure to unveil its exit strategy.
Allies of the prime minister told The Telegraph that the prime minister, who returned to No 10 on Sunday evening, has already discussed with ministers the idea of “modifying” restrictions before the 7 May.
But Mr Argar said: “I’ve seen a lot of the speculation in the papers and beyond in recent days but the reality is we’re not there yet.
“We’re not in a place where the science says it is safe to ease the restrictions.”
Mr Argar told BBC Breakfast said he understood ”the frustrations that people are having with these measures, they are restrictive and they are very difficult” but insisted they were working.
Downing Street also pushed back on the newspaper’s claims that the PM could “go sooner” than 7 May, the deadline for the rolling three-week review of the lockdown.
A source told The Independent that any relaxation of measures was unlikely to come this week.
Mr Johnson returns to work on Monday after three weeks away, which included several nights in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
He returns to intense pressure from Labour and his own party over easing the lockdown amid fears of the sustained restrictions will devastate the economy.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, said the government must get the economy moving, and there was a limit to how long people would tolerate restrictions, especially if they seemed “illogical”.
He urged an “overriding principle ... that we will only maintain those restrictions which are necessary and if there is a question over whether something is necessary or not, I think we should err on the side of openness and trying to make sure that more people can get on with their lives and more people can get on with getting back to their jobs”.
Mr Johnson was due to chair the government’s coronavirus “war cabinet” meeting on Monday morning.
It comes after foreign secretary Dominic Raab rejected calls for an early easing of the coronavirus lockdown, saying the outbreak was still at a “delicate and dangerous” stage.
The government is coming under intense pressure from senior Tories to relax the strict social distancing measures, amid concern at the damage they are doing to the economy.
But Mr Raab, who has been standing in for the prime minister while he recovered from the disease, said the government would proceed “cautiously” to avoid a second peak in the outbreak.
“We are at a delicate and dangerous stage,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“We need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed, which is why we are proceeding very cautiously and we are sticking to the scientific advice with the social distancing measures at this time, whilst doing all the homework to make sure that we are prepared in due course for the next phase.”
Spain, Italy and Belgium have all set out their strategies to ease their lockdowns, while France is due debate its own proposals on Tuesday.
Italy’s plan sees some businesses and factories reopening on 4 May, with restaurants and cafes to follow on 1 June.