Life in the UK will not go straight back to normal when coronavirus lockdown measures are eased, the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock warned it would “take time” for the enforced social distancing measures to be fully phased out.
Later today the government is expected to announce an extension to the three-week emergency “stay at home” rules in a bid to suppress the COVID-19 outbreak.
Cabinet ministers will get a briefing on the latest scientific and medical advice via video conference this morning, before a special meeting of the government’s emergency committee known as COBRA is chaired by stand-in prime minister Dominic Raab.
The first secretary of state is deputising for Boris Johnson while he recovers from coronavirus with his pregnant faincee in the countryside retreat of Chequers.
Questions of when the lockdown might end were raised by a health minister, Nadine Dorries, on Wednesday night.
She tweeted: “There is only one way we can ‘exit’ full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine. Until then, we need to find ways we can adapt society and strike a balance between the health of the nation and our economy.”
Responding to the comment, Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Kay [email protected]: “The key word in that is full – she was being quite precise, I think.
“It is too early to say now that we should remove the measures.
“People can see that while we may be reaching a peak the numbers aren’t coming down yet.
“The point Nadine was making is we will not be returning to some, just straight back to how things were before. This will take time.”
Mr Hancock also said 15% of care homes in England have seen an outbreak of coronavirus, after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed 40% have there.
The government has promised that everyone in care homes who needs a COVID-19 test will get one, after the NHS Confederation chief executive said fatalities were going “under the radar” because daily figures only count hospital patient deaths.
Mr Hancock said 10,000 care home residents have been tested and 4,000 workers in them have been referred for tests.