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The Government Has Extended The UK's Lockdown By Another Three Weeks

First secretary of state Dominic Raab made the announcement at the government's daily press conference.

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The UK will be in lockdown for at least another three weeks after the government announced that current measures will be extended.

First secretary of state Dominic Raab made the announcement at the government's daily press conference, stepping in for prime minister Boris Johnson, who continues to recuperate at Chequers, his official country retreat, after contracting the coronavirus.

He said the government's scientific advisory committee, SAGE, noted that there was evidence the lockdown was working — but, he added, the data provided "a mixed and inconsistent" picture. "The worst thing we can do is ease up too soon," he said.

Raab, flanked at the press conference by the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said that any change to current social distancing measures "would threaten a second peak of the virus" and risk more deaths — as well as more long-term economic damage.

The decision came as the UK recorded 861 deaths over the past 24 hours — 100 more than the day before.

Raab said that while there was evidence the rate of infection had dropped significantly, there were still "issues with the virus spreading in some hospitals and care homes".

Johnson first announced that Britain would go into lockdown on March 23 in a televised message to the nation. At the time he said the measures would be reviewed in three weeks and relaxed if the evidence showed the government was able to do so.

The latest extension means the UK will be in lockdown until at least May 7. When pressed on when the current measures may end, Raab reiterated the prime minister's suggestion that it may take three months to come through the peak of the virus.

Ministers and advisers have repeatedly said that the measures will not be eased until there is evidence the death toll is consistently decreasing. Earlier in the week, Vallance said it would be lifted only "when we are firmly the other side" of the peak.

Raab said that while some social distancing measures may be relaxed when data showed it was safe to do so, others may be strengthened in order to protect public health and the economy.

Ministers received an update on the impact of lockdown so far from Vallance at a cabinet meeting Thursday morning. The extension was formally agreed at a Cobra emergency meeting later in the day.

The lockdown is likely to be renewed again in another three weeks.

At the press conference, Raab said the government would be guided "at all times" by the evidence and scientific advice when deciding whether to ease lockdown measures.

He said measures would not be lifted unless five factors were satisfied: capacity in hospitals to provide critical care; a consistent fall in daily death rate; evidence that the rate of infection will fall to manageable levels, medical centers will overcome operational challenges such as personal protective equipment and testing, and that any adjustment to measures will not overwhelm the NHS.

"We've come too far, lost too many loved ones, and sacrificed too much to let up now," Raab said, "especially when we are now beginning to see that our efforts are paying off. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.

"If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place, we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all of the progress that has been made — and that would risk a quick return to another lockdown, with all the threat to life that a second peak of the virus would bring, and all the economic damage that a second lockdown would carry."

Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

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