The most impatient political leader at Westminster appeals to the British public to be patient. He said the country is at maximum risk from pandemic … reports George Kent
In his first briefing to the nation after recovering from the novel coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said that the country was at the moment of maximum risk in the pandemic, and urged people not to lose patience with the ongoing lockdown.
Speaking outside No 10 after he returned to Downing Street on Sunday evening, Johnson said “we are now beginning to turn the tide” on the disease, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, Britain records the lowest daily count on Monday with 350 deaths. Usually the toll is leass on Mondays because of weekend, the sharp fall indicates the peak is over. April 8 records the highest toll with 980 deaths. The toll now crosses 21,000.
Johnson thanked his colleagues who stood in while he was away, as well as the public for their “sheer grit and guts”.
The Prime Minister said he understood concerns from business-owners who were impatient to end the lockdown, but said: “I refuse to throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people,” and risk a second peak of the outbreak which could lead to “economic disaster”.
“I ask you to contain your impatience,” he added.
He said there were “real signs now that we are passing through the peak” – including with fewer hospital admissions and fewer COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
And comparing the fight to someone being attacked, ohnson said: “If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger – which I can tell you from personal experience, it is – then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.
“And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk.
“I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.”
Johnson said the UK has “so far collectively shielded our National Health Service (NHS)” and “flattened the peak” – but he could not yet say when or which restrictions would be lifted to ease lockdown, the BBC reported.
Once the UK is meeting the five tests for easing restrictions – including a consistent fall in the death rate and making sure the NHS can cope – “then that will be the time to move on to the second phase” in the fight against the outbreak, he said.
He added the government would make decisions with “maximum transparency”.
Johnson was diagnosed with the virus on March 27. He was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in central London on April 5 and spent a week there, including three nights in intensive care.
The UK leader was discharged on April 12.
He has not been doing any official government work during his convalescence at his country residence, Chequers, although last week he did speak to the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump, as well as meeting senior ministers.
Support to SMEs
The UK Treasury has confirmed that it was considering offering 100 per cent guarantees on loans up to 25,000 pounds for small firms.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in March that UK-based small and medium-sized business could apply for interest-free loans to help them with COVID-19 related difficulties..
However, companies have said that they were still finding it difficult to get credit.
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has questioned whether the system is “too complicated”.
As many as one million of the UK’s smallest businesses, many employing no more than a dozen workers, could benefit from the new rules, analysts say.
These include shops and pubs, which have been forced to close under coronavirus lockdown measures.
Loans to larger businesses under the coronavirus business interruption loans scheme (CBILS) will continue to get 80 per cent backing.
The CBILS provide loans of up to £5m for companies with a turnover of less than £45m.
However, many firms have complained that loans are coming through too slowly and that some banks have imposed tough criteria on granting credit.