Boris Johnson said the latest phase of the plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic was”conditional” as he addressed the nation last night.
The Prime Minister relaxed restrictions and said staff should be “actively encouraged” to return to work if safe to do so.
But he added that “since our priority is to protect the public and save lives, we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the five tests.”
He said: “We must protect our NHS. We must see sustained falls in the death rate. We must see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection. We must sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it, and yes, it is a global problem but we must fix it.
“And last, we must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the R – back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago.”
Mr Johnson came in for criticism from leaders in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales for ditching the ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ mantra in favour of ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’.
It is claimed the mixed messaging will cost people their lives and was roundly rejected by the UK’s devolved powers.
At the time of writing the UK had 219,183 reported cases and 31,855 confirmed fatalities.
The Prime Minister also announced a new level alert system to monitor the threat of the pandemic.
“We are establishing a new Covid Alert System run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.
“And that Covid Alert Level will be determined primarily by R and the number of coronavirus cases.
“And in turn that Covid Alert Level will tell us how tough we have to be in our social distancing measures – the lower the level the fewer the measures.
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“The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be. There will be five alert levels.
“Level One means the disease is no longer present in the UK and Level Five is the most critical – the kind of situation we could have had if the NHS had been overwhelmed.
“Over the period of the lockdown we have been in Level Four, and it is thanks to your sacrifice we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three.
“And as we go everyone will have a role to play in keeping the R down.”
As he allowed the public “unlimited” exercise, Mr Johnson said this was not the end of lockdown, and said people “should go to work if you can’t work from home”.
He said: “We are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures. And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week.
“We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must.
“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.
“And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.
“So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.”
In response chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Richard Burge, strongly advised London businesses not to change plans yet.
“You have not been given sufficient information on how to get your employees safely to work, nor how to keep them safe while they are there.
“We hope that the statement in Parliament and the promised guidance documents will enable business to prepare.
“At the moment, it would be foolish for any business leader to encourage staff not already undertaking essential work to do anything but to continue to work from home tomorrow if they can do so.”
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