The length of the coronavirus lockdown depends on how stringently the public stick to the rules, Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said, as he declined to give a timeframe for the strict measures being lifted.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster warned on Sunday that ministers would not hesitate to enforce tougher rules if needed.
As the death toll in the UK passed 1,200 , Gove declined to be drawn on how long the tough measures restricting people’s lives would be in place, and what stricter rules could look like
“There are different projections as to how long the lockdown might last,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the key experts advising the government on the spread of the virus, told The Sunday Times the lockdown would likely have to remain in place until June.
Asked about Ferguson’s prediction, Gove said: “It’s not the case that the length of the lockdown is something that is absolutely fixed.
“It depends on all of our behaviour. If we follow the guidelines, we can deal more effectively with the spread of the disease.”
In a separate interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Gove said he could not make an “accurate prediction” about how long the lockdown would last.
But he said people had to be prepared for a “significant period where these measures are still in place”.
Gove insisted “it is important” that “we don’t pre-empt discussion of what other steps may be required” when pressed on what further measures could be introduced.
But he said the public so far appear to be heeding the advice. “At the moment, all the evidence is that people are observing the rules, if you look at the number of people on public transport that has fallen, if you look at footfall in supermarkets and other stores, that has fallen as well,” he said.
“We keep things under review in order to ensure that if there are further steps they can be implemented.”
With Boris Johnson working in isolation in his Downing Street flat after testing positive for the disease, Gove insisted the prime minister remained “very firmly in charge”.
He said the PM would hold another meeting by video conference on Sunday, and confirmed that foreign secretary Dominic Raab is the “designated deputy” if his condition worsened and he could no longer govern.
Johnson today wrote to households to warn them “things will get worse before they get better”.
The UK has hit its initially 10,000-a-day testing target, Gove said, but he refused to give a timeline for when all NHS and social care workers will be tested, despite increasing demands.
Instead, he said that it is hoped to “be able to test as many frontline workers at the earliest possible stage”.
Practising medic and Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said she was “really disappointed” that NHS staff and care workers were not currently being tested for the disease.
“These are the people who are at the frontline, these are people who need to know whether or not they have the virus or not,” the deputy leadership candidate told Sky.
“It is absolutely urgent that NHS and care staff are tested and they have access to testing immediately,” she said.
“I’m not sure it’s entirely fair that senior politicians are having access to testing when frontline NHS staff, who are going in to work night shifts, day shifts, double shifts at the moment, can’t get the tests that they need.”