People should follow the government’s coronavirus rules and stay home over the Easter weekend, as warmer weather is forecast across parts of the UK.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the UK was “just beginning to see this strategy starting to work” and people needed to “stick with it”.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 25C (77F) in some parts of the country, according to the Met Office.
Some police forces have warned of a crackdown on people flouting the rules.
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is acting on behalf of the PM – is set to chair a virtual meeting of the emergency Cobra committee later to discuss the lockdown measures.
The rules, which were brought in on 23 March, are due to be officially reviewed next week.
But in Wales, the rules have already been extended, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “likely” the lockdown was “going to be in place for some weeks to come yet”.
It comes as Downing Street said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition “continues to improve” as his treatment for the virus carries on in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Latest figures show the UK recorded its highest daily rise in the number of patients dying with coronavirus, with 938 deaths recorded in UK hospitals in the 24 hours up to 17:00 BST on Tuesday. The total number of UK deaths was 7,097 at that stage.
On Thursday, NHS England announced a further 765 people with the virus had died. In Scotland, another 81 people died, while Wales announced a further 41 deaths.
Of those who died in England, 43 had no known underlying health condition and were aged between 33 and 99 years old.
Among those who have died in recent days is Edmond Adedeji, 62, a doctor at Great Western Hospital in Swindon.
Easter weekend warning
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Dowden appealed for people to stay at home over the Easter weekend.
“This is not how I planned to spend my Easter weekend, I’m sure it’s not how any of your viewers planned to spend their Easter weekend,” he said.
“We’ll have to stay at home and the reason why we’re having to stay at home is in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she knew following the restrictions will “seem even harder over this Easter holiday weekend”.
“Please stay in touch with family, friends and loved ones in whatever alternative way best works for you,” she said, adding: “But please do follow the rules and stay at home over Easter.”
Since the measures were brought in on 23 March, people have been told they can only leave the house for four limited reasons: shopping for basic necessities; one form of exercise a day; any medical need and travelling to work if you cannot work from home.
Police were given powers to enforce the restrictions and have been acting with discretion, with some people receiving fines.
But the chief of Northamptonshire Police warned the “three-week grace period is over” and more people could face fines or a criminal record if they do not stick to those rules.
And the assistant chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police said police officers will patrol roads, adding: “If we stop vehicles and they are travelling to a second home, we will ask them to return to their primary residence.”
Ministers, including from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will look at evidence from scientists on the impact of the measures at the Cobra meeting later. A formal decision on how long the lockdown will remain in place is not expected this week.
Restrictions, the biggest curtailment of our liberty in our lifetimes, lockdown. Call it what you will. It’s not going any time soon.
The Welsh government has already said so. So has the Scottish government.
And the culture secretary at Westminster, Oliver Dowden, has said the evidence points to it “staying in place”.
And Downing Street is at pains to emphasise the importance of social distancing, and not talk about anything else.
There have been some private grumbles at Westminster that Cardiff and Edinburgh have been so explicit, so soon – given there are UK wide discussions about this.
But that is to indulge in the minutiae when the big picture is what matters.
Should we be surprised the lockdown is going to carry on for some time? No.
Yes, the government promised to look at it three weeks in. That means next week.
But it was always going to take this long for even the beginnings of evidence that it might be working to start to appear. So across the Easter weekend, and beyond bluntly, we need to get used to this.
Mr Dowden said in his BBC interview that it was unlikely that the measures would be lifted in any way next week.
“The Welsh government announced their decision yesterday, we will announce the outcome of considering these measures next week but the measures are in place in England just as they are in Wales,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“I don’t think it’s very likely these measures are going to be changed given they’re just starting to have an effect but, as we said, we would review them. It’s only prudent that on an ongoing basis we review them after three weeks.”
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething – who will also take part in the Cobra meeting – said there was “virtually zero prospect” of government experts advising that it was safe to lift the lockdown, adding the measures would continue for “a number of weeks”.
He told BBC Breakfast it was important to be “straight with the public”, saying that “if we don’t provide a clear message” then people might be under the impression the lockdown measures might be lifted next week anyway and “start to act as if the last few days doesn’t really matter”.
A UK government source said “we were surprised that the Welsh government decided to jump the gun with their own plans” before the Cobra meeting.
The source said there was a “high level joint call” between Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and cabinet minister Michael Gove “where it was agreed that a continued UK-wide approach was best for our response to fighting coronavirus”.
According to new coronavirus laws, the health secretary must review the restrictions at least once every 21 days. The law states the first review must take place by 16 April.
According to the latest update from Downing Street on Thursday, Mr Johnson continues to receive “standard oxygen treatment” and is “in good spirits”.
He was taken to hospital on Sunday evening after self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms and admitted to intensive care a day later.
One family’s story: ‘Every day we prepare for worst’
Sue Martin’s husband Mal, 58, from south Wales, has been in intensive care for the past 11 days.
Doctors tried to wean Mal off the ventilator but he continued to deteriorate, and the medics told Sue and her two teenage children there was almost zero chance he was going to survive.
“I rang back later and begged to be able to see him. We hadn’t seen him since he left the house over a week before,” she said.
“We had to be in full protective gear – we weren’t allowed to touch him but we could speak to him. Essentially we were going in to say our goodbyes.
“We just told him we loved him and it was heartbreaking to hear the children tell him that they were going to make him proud and we were really glad to have that time with him.” Since then, there has been no further improvement but no deterioration in his condition.
“Every day we prepare for the worst but there’s this little glimmer that maybe just maybe he might turn a corner.”
In other developments:
- Accommodation rental site Airbnb is temporarily restricting bookings in the UK to key workers and “essential stays” until 18 April
- A Home Office scientific adviser has told staff at Her Majesty’s Passport Office that 80% of people will get Covid-19 and “we can’t hide away from it forever” amid demands they return to work
- Admissions to hospital A&E departments in England fell last month by 23%, with NHS England saying it was likely to be due to the virus outbreak
- Almost three in 10 businesses have cut jobs because of the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics
- A 101-year-old man has been discharged from hospital in Worcestershire after recovering from coronavirus at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch
- A study by communications regulator Ofcom has found 46% of internet-using adults in the UK have seen false or misleading information about the coronavirus
- The Alzheimer’s Society has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for more action to stop the spread of coronavirus in care homes – on Wednesday it emerged that 15 residents had died at a home in Luton
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