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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will set out a “comprehensive plan” next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.

He said the UK was “past the peak” of the virus outbreak, but stressed the country must not “risk a second spike”, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Johnson said face masks will be “useful” as part of the strategy for coming out of lockdown. Some 26,771 people have now died with the virus in the UK, a rise of 674.

The prime minister said that “we can now see the sunlight”, but he insisted that to avoid the “disaster” of a second peak the UK must keep the R rate – the number of people to which one infected person will pass the virus – below one.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

More than 81,000 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, still short of the Downing Street’s target of 100,000 by the end of April. Johnson insisted: “We’re massively ramping up testing.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, told BBC One’s Question Time that the government was “quite likely to get very close to or meet” the target when the figures for the final day of April are announced on Friday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to outline a plan next week as “a step in the right direction”.

On being asked at what level the reproduction rate should be before the government would be “comfortable easing restrictions”, chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, replied: “We are absolutely confident that the wrong answer is anything over one.”

LONDON, July 24, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, on July 24, 2019. Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson named the first of his new front bench ministers on Wednesday night. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/Xinhua/IANS) by .
Britain\’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street, in London. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/Xinhua/IANS)

He explained that as soon as the R rises above one you “restart exponential growth” and “sooner or later” the NHS would be at the risk of being overwhelmed. The current rate is thought to be between 0.6 and 0.9 across the country.

Johnson said that keeping the reproduction rate down “is going to be absolutely vital to our recovery”.

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