The UK “can’t just stay in lockdown forever”, Dominic Raab has told Sky News as he defended a gradual easing of the coronavirus rules despite concerns raised by some government scientific advisers.
While acknowledging it was a “precarious moment”, the foreign secretary told Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the “careful” relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions was the “right step” to take.
But he also said if there was any increase in coronavirus cases then targeted measures would be taken.
Mr Raab was speaking after two members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warned the government was taking risks by allowing the gradual reopening of shops and schools and larger gatherings to meet in private.
Separately, Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, also told Sky News that she feels is it “inevitable” that England will see a rise in coronavirus cases as the lockdown is relaxed.
But speaking to Sophy Ridge, Mr Raab said: “We are confident that this is the right step to be taking at this moment in time.
“We are taking those steps very carefully, based on the science but also based on our ability now to monitor the virus.”
He said “steady progress” has been made in bringing down the transmission rate.
Pointing to the downward trend in new cases, he said: “That is the steady progress that we are making which means… we can take those steps responsibly, but we have to be very careful.”
He added: “We are at a precarious moment.
“We can ease up, we can protect life, but also livelihoods, get life back to something resembling normal, but we must monitor it very carefully,
“If there is any uptick in the number of cases, if we stop making the progress I described, we will have to take further measures again and target the virus wherever it may appear.”
Mr Raab said: “Obviously this is a sensitive moment, but we can’t just stay in lockdown forever. We have got to transition.
“The more we transition through careful steps the more I think we will build up confidence in the approach we are taking.”
Pressed over the warnings issued by some members of SAGE, Mr Raab pointed out the scientists would not always agree.
With more than 25 taking part at any one time, he said: “It would be totally surprising if they all agreed in unanimity. They don’t. That’s why we have that group, to test the evidence.
“Then we as elected politicians have to take the final judgement call.”
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