Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will present his exit strategy for the UK next week amid growing concerns about the devastating effect the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the country's economy.
Giving his first Covid-19 briefing since he fell ill five weeks ago, Johnson said the UK was "beyond the peak" and "on the downhill slope".
Johnson said another 674 people with the coronavirus had died in hospitals, nursing homes and other places in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 26,711. It is the third highest official toll in the world, behind the United States and Italy.
The government is facing criticism for its failure to conduct tests widely in the early stages of the outbreak and for the lack of protective equipment for healthcare professionals. He admitted that he will not reach his goal of 100,000 virus tests per day, scheduled for May 1.
However, the number of daily tests increased from just over 52,000 to 81,611 on Wednesday, the prime minister said.
“It seemed very much that he was claiming some level of victory at this event. It is the first time he has received the briefing in the five weeks since he was infected with the coronavirus and hospitalized, "journalist Tadhg Enright told Euronews.
"But we are already listening to the opposition Labor Party and its relatively new leader, Sir Keir Starmer, saying that there is inevitable a public investigation into whether the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic has cost lives."
Watch Tadhg's report in the video player above.
Five main tests to facilitate blocking
The UK conservative government is under pressure on the blockade amid calls for a clearer vision of an exit strategy to be given. This is when other European countries have set dates to reopen businesses and schools.
Boris Johnson has established steps to be taken to continue suppressing the disease and restarting the economy, promising more details to companies and schools in his plan next week.
He said that the government would be guided by science and would seek "maximum political consensus", and that there were five main tests to be met:
- ensure that the NHS (UK health service) is protected and able to cope
- there must be a sustained drop in deaths
- authorities must be sure that the infection rate is falling
- the health service must be able to overcome the operational and logistical challenges of PPE (personal protective equipment)
- most importantly, the government must make sure that the measures taken are not at risk of a second peak in cases of coronaviruses that would overload the NHS
The prime minister said it is vital not to lose control and reach a "bigger mountain". The fifth test meant that nothing should raise the "R" infection rate above 1 – the figure means a rate at which all people with COVID-19 infect each other.
Other UK figures published on Thursday and announced by Johnson showed that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased 6,032 in one day to 171,253.
But more people are leaving the hospital after being treated with COVID-19 and recovering. The number is 15,043 – down from 15,359 the previous day.