Priti Patel will today scold the rule-breakers ignoring the coronavirus lockdown after scenes of crowds pouring into public places sent alarm bells ringing through government.
The Home Secretary will underscore her warning to stay indoors with the threat of beefing up the police’s powers to enforce social distancing.
Unseasonably warm weather has caused many Britons to defy ministers’ instructions and head to parks, beaches and shopping centres in their droves.
A steady increase of traffic on the roads has also added to the growing unease in Downing Street that the country is becoming restless under the restrictions to everyday life.
Police chiefs have repeatedly begged the nation to obey the rules, while one force yesterday branded those flouting the lockdown as ‘selfish’.
However their message has been undermined by their own officers failing to observe social distancing during Thursday’s clap for carers on Westminster Bridge.
Mr Patel will this afternoon use the daily Downing Street press briefing to impress upon the public the seriousness of following the rules.
Mr Patel will this afternoon use the daily Downing Street press briefing to impress upon the public the seriousness of following the rules (pictured at the briefing on April 11)
Unseasonably warm weather has caused many Britons to defy ministers’ instructions and head to parks, beaches and shopping centres in their droves (Hyde Park pictured)
Police chiefs have repeatedly begged the nation to obey the rules, while one force yesterday branded those flouting the lockdown as ‘selfish’ (Victoria Park in London pictured)
A source close to the Home Secretary told the Daily Express: ‘We are seeing a worrying increase in people moving around.
‘Some industries which we did not advise to close are reopening, and we welcome that provided the social distancing rules are observed.
‘The vast majority of the public are still doing the right thing. However, transport use has ticked up in a way that suggests something more is going on and that has set off alarm bells.’
Ministers have come under pressure to publish a road map out of the lockdown, but have so far remained tight-lipped.
The lack of information from Whitehall has jarred with the approach taken in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon, who published a plan to ease restrictions after promising to treat the public ‘like grown ups’.
At yesterday’s Downing Street press conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps praised the British people for largely following the rules.
He said: ‘The country has done incredibly well in adhering to social distancing and there is a danger as we go into yet another warm sunny weekend that people think that perhaps these graphs are showing that the peak is over.
‘It isn’t over, we’re riding perhaps, we hope, a downward trend but it is by no means, no means established yet. When people ask me when will the measures, the social distancing, the stay at home measures, be altered, my answer in some ways is that some of this lies in your own hands.
‘The more we adhere to it and are strict about the social distancing that is required, the faster that decision will be able to be made. But that decision will, of course, be made entirely on the advice of science and medical advice.’
Yet when the lockdown will end is still a focal point in the national conversation, and McDonald’s yesterday mooted re-opening.
The fast food giant, which is already operation again in coronavirus-stricken France, is in talks about opening its 1,249 restaurants across the UK, according to reports.
The burger chain could open for drive-thru and delivery orders as early as mid-May, say the Irish Farmers Journal.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: ‘Of course we are thinking about re-opening and having those conversations – but it’s unclear when that will be.’
It comes as figures reveal how Britain’s roads are becoming increasingly busy.
Data from sat nav makers TomTom shows how evening rush hour traffic in London reached 19 per cent for the last two days – the highest level it has been on a weekday since the lockdown came in.
Meanwhile, people have been pictured packed into busy open-air food markets and parks in London.
Traffic can be seen on the A40 by Hanger Lane in West London during rush hour this morning. As the country enters it’s second month of the government imposed lockdown to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, there is a steady rise in the number of people using the roads and returning to work
Pictures today showed a busy open air food market on the streets of Tooting, London, where some people are seen standing close together
Hyde Park in London was busy today as people enjoy the sun and hot weather in as temperatures continued to stay at around 70F
Crowds were spotted in busy open-air markets including Broadway Market in east London during the national lockdown
Transport usage has fallen to levels of about 5 per cent on the Underground and even less on National Rail in recent weeks
This graph based on traffic congestion data for London at 8am on weekdays since March 16 shows how it dramatically fell in the week before the lockdown was introduced, before dropped further – then creeping up slightly in recent weeks. The congestion level represents extra travel time drivers experience on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions
This graph using TomTom data for the afternoon rush hour at 5pm shows a similar picture – where traffic congestion has fallen in the week leading up to the lockdown being announced, before then rising again slightly over the past few weeks
Matt Hancock today said he was ‘comfortable’ with firms reopening and Britons getting back to work as figures showed traffic on UK roads is on the rise for the first time since lockdown began.
The health secretary welcomed the decision by construction companies, shops and factories to restart their businesses – but insisted those that have opened their doors again never needed to close.
It comes as figures revealed another 684 people have died from in Britain, taking the total number of fatalities to 19,506.
Britain’s coronavirus death toll moves closer to 20,000 people
Another 684 people have died from coronavirus in Britain, taking the total number of fatalities to 19,506.
Officials also announced that 5,386 people tested positive for the killer virus in the last 24 hours, meaning 143,464 have now officially been diagnosed.
NHS England confirmed 587 people died in its hospitals, while another 174 deaths were announced across Scotland and Wales.
Victims in England were aged between 40 and 102 years old, and 34 of them had no known underlying health conditions.
The Government had hoped to keep the number of victims to 20,000 or lower but recent trends suggest the UK will hit that tomorrow counting hospital deaths alone.
Officials also announced today that 5,386 people had tested positive, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 143,464.
Today, Hancock said social distancing would need to be enforced on building sites and in manufacturing plants and the retail sector, as statistics from the AA revealed there have been more car journeys than at any point over the past few weeks.
In a further sign the economy is slowly restarting after the UK first entered coronavirus restrictions at the end of March, photographs of the A40 at Hangar Lane at rush hour showed it was busier than in recent weeks, with similar scenes on the M1, the M3 and M4 and the Severn Bridge.
The AA data, which looked car usage by 15,000 motorists with a tracker in their vehicle, showed an average of 0.4 journeys per car on weekdays at the start of this month. Average car trips increased to 0.46 earlier this week and reached 0.47 on Wednesday, the highest total since mid-March.
The rise in traffic use also correlate with AA breakdown statistics, with previous weeks seeing 6,000 breakdowns a day – while that number hit 8,000 this week. Meanwhile, TomTom data showed traffic congestion levels in London are slowly creeping up again after plunging in the week leading up to the lockdown on March 23.
TomTom’s data shows the congestion level during the afternoon rush hour at 5pm in London each day was at 19 per cent for the past two days – the highest level it has been on a weekday since the lockdown came in.
The data emerged as Britons continued to flout lockdown rules by packing out beaches and parks across the UK as temperatures hit 68F in another sign that the country is seemingly no longer willing to comply with government instructions to stay indoors.
Meanwhile pictures revealed how shoppers were today seen packing into busy open-air food markets, including one in Balham, London, and at Broadway Market, east London, as Britain continues to bask in warm temperatures.
Hancock told Sky News: ‘The things that are restarting are things that we never required to close in the first place, but what the companies have been doing is working out how they can have safe working following the social distancing rules whilst people are at work.
The busy M1 this afternoon near St Albans in Hertforshire. The rise in traffic use also correlate with AA breakdown statistics, with previous weeks seeing 6,000 breakdowns a day – while that number hit 8,000 this week
The A40 by Hangar Lane in west London this morning. According to the AA traffic is up by 10% compared to earlier this month
Increase in traffic: The left image was taken on Good Friday 2020 – which is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year but was deserted amid this year’s crisis. The picture on the right, taken today, shows traffic on the A12 at Colchester, Essex
Traffic cameras on the M4 showed a clear increase in traffic levels this morning in a further sign that Britain is edging back to work
More cars could also be seen on the M3 today compared with the beginning of lockdown restrictions
More cars were also on the Severn Bridge today as the number of vehicles taking to Britain’s roads started increasing
‘Throughout we’ve allowed hardware stores to stay open, and the construction industry, but what businesses have been doing is taking the last couple of weeks to work out ”ok how do you stay open and stay within the social-distancing rules at work?”
‘So it’s absolutely fine for those businesses to stay open because they were never required to close by the social-distancing rules.’
Figures from Google’s mobility report also showed that that people are heading out more, showing visitor numbers to public spaces and retail centres was up by 10 per cent.
Today housebuilder Persimmon announced it is to restart operations on its sites, following Taylor Wimpey and rival Vistry Group which said it will be re-starting next week, while luxury car maker Aston Martin Lagonda also plans to restart operations.
Figures from the AA show show more car journeys than at any point over the past few weeks in a sign the economy is slowly restarting after the UK first entered coronavirus restrictions at the end of March
The A14 in Cambridge this lunchtime as more people take car journeys since the lockdown started. It comes as some shops, including B&Q, have started to re-open, as well as building sites and factories
The photograph of the empty A12 at Colchester in Essex was taken on Good Friday. The image taken today shows many more cars have taken to the road
The retail sector has been given a boost yesterday as B&Q reopened 155 stores across the country for customers to browse through the shop, triggering huge queues outside. Some of Britain’s favourite food outlets have also seen a surge in demand after reopening a small number of branches for delivery or takeaways
Crowds gathered outside a Five Guys restaurant at Edinburgh’s Fountain Park waiting for takeaway orders and last night police were seen attending a large queue outside a MEATliquor burger bar in south east London.
Pret-a-Manger has also reopened ten outlets. Six Nando’s have also reopened – but only for frontline health workers. The restaurants will provide up to 1,700 free meals a day to NHS employees.
AA President Edmund King said: ‘Most drivers are still following Government advice to only make essential journeys by car, however, this week we have seen traffic and breakdowns creeping back up.
‘It is a worry that some drivers seem to have got bored being locked up at home and are now venturing out in their cars. Breakdowns have increased by about 20% this week and traffic seems to be 10% higher than under earlier lockdown conditions.
The M62 was today much busier than it has been over the last few weeks as it appeared the country was starting to edge out of lockdown
Customers queue outside Home Bargains today in Leeds as stores across the UK begin reopening amid the lockdown
People queuing outside Home Bargains in Leeds today
Skateboarders in Leeds breach lockdown rules. Some parks and beaches were busy today as Britons enjoyed the warm weather
Last night police were seen attending a large queue outside a MEATliquor burger bar in the latest scene from a country seemingly no longer willing to comply with government instructions to stay indoors
People continue to flout lockdown rules today as they headed out to Hyde Park. This woman read a book in the sunshine
People queue outside a B&Q in Warrington, Cheshire today after the DIY chain announced it was reopening its stores
Long queues of shoppers outside B&Q in Sutton Ashfield, Nottinghamshire as Britons appear to return to normality
Shoppers queue at a recently re-opened B&Q this afternoon in Northampton
‘It is important to cut out non-essential travel as one crash can tie up the emergency services for hours and may also result in a precious NHS hospital bed being taken.
‘The message is still to stay home and help to save lives. We also urge drivers to stick to the speed limits as a minority of drivers have been treating the roads as race tracks.
Google’s mobility report showed that between February 16 and March 29, visits to retail and recreation locations, such as restaurants, shopping centres and galleries dropped by 85 per cent.
But by the end of last week, this was up by 10 per cent to 75 per cent below their normal level. Visits to parks and beaches are up by 19 percentage points to 33 per cent below usual figures.
Britons today continued to ignore lockdown rules by flocking to parks, beaches and promenades to bask in the despite the possibility of strong fines for breaching the rules.
Sunbathers enjoy the warm weather today in Potters Fields Park, next to Tower Bridge in London
Queues outside B&Q in Darnley outside Glasgow today. Shoppers have been visiting their stores after the firm announced they would be reopening
More customers queued outside this B&Q branch in Hartcliffe, Bristol today
People enjoy the warm weather and sunshine in Potters Fields Park, next to Tower Bridge in London
In Roath Park in Cardiff Covidiots set up their own outdoor gym, bringing kettle bells, resistance bands and even took down safety tape off park gear for the group workout – against safety advice.
Passer-by Diane Howard said: ‘It is just ridiculous. They are in a big group and using the equipment even though it’s been taped off. I even saw guys running together with resistance bands – and even wrestling on the grass.’
Police chief slams advice on exercise rules as hundreds flout guidance to enjoy 68F temperatures
The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police Shawn Sawyervhas slammed tjhe National Police Chief’s Council over its advice on exercise rules.
It has published that it is reasonable to ‘drive to the countryside and walk (where far more time is spent walking than driving)’.
But he said: ‘The National Police Chiefs’ guidance which I think is some of the poorest guidance I have seen for a long time sadly, would allow people from outside the force access to come in, the very thing that our communities don’t want.’
But as the sun shone over the last few days, hundreds of people were ignoring the plea to stay at home – and the risk of £60 fines.
Hundreds of people were seen on Preston beach at Paignton, Devon, playing in the sand and sunbathing.
One member of the public said: ‘There are whole families down here with young kids digging in the sand. They are acting more like a day out than mandated exercise.
‘There are well over 100 people on the beach. Some are walking, some are sitting around or playing in the sea.’
Coastguards have also criticised the people heading to beaches and surfers.
Falmouth based coastguard Paddy Cochrane said in the last 24-48 hours there had been a ‘large number of water users’ on the north and south coasts’.
Photos also showed a packed seafront in Hove, East Sussex.
The snap, taken last night, showed people sitting on benches enjoying ice cream and group gatherings after temperatures soared to 23C.
Eyewitness Ben Maughan, 34, said: ‘It was just absolutely packed. I usually go out for my evening run but it just wasn’t safe.
‘The police just weren’t doing anything and that was the shocking thing.
‘Usually they have been telling people sitting on a bench to move on or putting out BBQs. Just actual policing.
‘But they were just driving by on what looked like an ordinary Thursday summer’s day.
‘Even the ice cream shop had reopened. It was as though lockdown had been lifted.’
Mr Hancock today reiterated that the UK could not yet ease restrictions.
He said: ‘The truth is, it’s still too soon, safely, to change those measures. Although the number of people who died yesterday was lower, it was still over 600, so it’s still too high.
‘I just urge people to continue sticking to those rules, because it’s working and we’re flattening that curve but we need to see it coming down’
Builders were returning to construction sites and roads are visibly busier than a week ago.
Homebuilder Taylor Wimpey said construction would resume on May 4 and rival Vistry Group said it will re-start next week.
Today housebuilder Persimmon followed their lead and said it is to begin a ‘phased re-opening’ of its sites from Monday April 27 to help complete new homes under construction.
Persimmon shut down its construction sites, sales offices and moved non-site staff to work from home on March 25.
David Jenkinson, chief executive officer of Persimmon, said: ‘The UK Government has been very clear on the importance of the construction sector to the UK economy and its desire to see activity continue through the current period of crisis, provided appropriate public health measures are adopted.
‘Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety and wellbeing of the public, our colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers.
Photos also showed a packed seafront in Hove, East Sussex. The snap, taken last night, showed people sitting on benches enjoying ice cream and group gatherings after temperatures soared
In Roath Park in Cardiff Covidiots set up their own outdoor gym, bringing kettle bells, resistance bands and even took down safety tape off park gear for the group workout – against safety advice
One man can be seen lifting kettle bells and in Roath Park in Cardiff today. Passer-by Diane Howard said: ‘It is just ridiculous. They are in a big group and using the equipment even though it’s been taped off’
Two women relax in Hyde Park in central London as temperatures rose to 68F today. The scenes suggest the country is seemingly no longer willing to comply with government instructions to stay indoors
A man is sunbathes in Hyde Park this afternoon. Matt Hancock has welcomed the return to work and said that businesses that are reopening did not need to close
Two women sat in the sun in Hyde Park today as people continued to flout coronavirus lockdown restrictions
‘Having spent the last month developing and testing new site protocols that incorporate the necessary social distancing and protective measures, we believe that we are now able to return to site safely and support the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.’
Which companies have announced that they are re-opening?
Taylor Wimpey: Plans to resume work on its construction sites from May 4
Vistry Group: Will re-start work on 90 per cent of partnership sites and a ‘significant number’ of housing sites from the start of next week
Persimmon: Housebuilder is to begin a ‘phased re-opening’ of its sites from Monday April 27
Aston Martin Lagonda: Will reopen its South Wales factory on May 5, but main plant in Warwickshire will stay closed for now
B&Q: Opens 155 stores across Britain with ‘strict social distancing measures in place’
Nando’s: Reopens seven of its city centre kitchens to make meals for NHS workers and local charities
Jaguar Land Rover: From May 18 manufacturing will resume in Solihull and at its engine plant in Wolverhampton
Luxury car-maker Aston Martin Lagonda is also set to reopen its factory in south Wales on May 5 – and car giant Jaguar Land Rover will gradually resume production at two of its UK plants next month amid ‘robust’ guidelines to support a return to work.
Guernsey is set to be the first place in Britain to partially lift lockdown as gardeners, estate agents and builders return to work.
It comes amid a string of motoring offences during the lockdown, and incidents of Covidiots breaching guidelines.
A driver had is car seized after attempting to take three children for a day out on a 150 mile round trip to Brighton because they were ‘bored.’
Officers stopped the car at the Clacket Lane Services after the man was seen driving while using his mobile phone on the M25 westbound.
The man, aged in his 30s from the Romford area of Essex, told officers that he was ‘bored of being in and wanted some fresh air’ so decided to take a day trip to Brighton, East Sussex.
Two covidiots made a 450-mile round trip to climb Mount Snowdown – only to be turned back by police. The driver and passenger were reported in Llanberis for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules – advising people to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel.
A motorist has been caught racing at more than 150 mph by spy-in-the sky police on a deserted dual carriageway.
The car – a £40,000 BMW 330 – was captured by a police helicopter camera on the M11 in Essex before it crossed the border into Suffolk still travelling at more than twice the speed limit.
The driver of the BMW330 – believed to be a turbo-powered version developing 250bhp and with a 0-62 mph time of under six seconds – was eventually stopped near Newmarket when he slowed down.
Police said the driver has been reported for dangerous driving and excess speed and will have to face a court. A spokesman said: ‘The world may have changed, but the speed limit and traffic laws remain the same,’.
People out in the sunshine in Hyde Park this afternoon as temperatures hit 68F
A number of building sites have strarted to reopen with the number of passengers using the Tube in London likely to increase. Pictured: Canning Town station this week
An increase in speeding offences during lockdown has seen 20 times more cars travelling over 100mph compared to last year, a ‘disappointed’ police force says.
Norfolk Police have been forced to take robust action as 1.85 per cent of cars caught speeding on roads in the county have been travelling over 100mph – up from just 0.09 per cent at this time last year.
Speed data recorders set up at various locations across the county have shown a ‘marked increase’ in vehicles exceeding the speed limit.
The police force say that, in the past week alone in Norfolk, they have caught two vehicles travelling along the major A47 trunk road at speeds of 101 and 103mph.
Elsewhere, on the A11, a lights good vehicle limited to 60mph was found to be speeding at 102mph.
And finally, in a 60mph zone in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, a vehicle was found to be travelling at 94mph.
Officers continue to conduct speed patrols along many of the major road networks in Norfolk, in order to target those drivers who not only pose a threat to themselves but to other road users.
It comes as the Government is said to be considering staggering workers’ start times to avoid the rush-hour bottlenecks when the majority of Britons head back to the office – possibly at some point next month.
Expert warns government must be ready with clear guidance on whether people can visit family and friends when lockdown ends
Clear guidance on whether people can safely visit family and friends needs to be ready as soon as any easing of coronavirus lockdown rules is announced, a public health expert has warned.
Indefinite shielding of vulnerable groups such as the over-70s would be ‘incredibly unpalatable and damaging to families’, Professor Linda Bauld said
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said the UK will likely have to live with some form of disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed his comments, adding that ‘a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future’.
Prof Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said international travel is likely to be ‘strongly discouraged’ until the autumn but said clear guidance is needed on whether safe travel within the UK will be possible.
She told the PA news agency: ‘Would people be able to drive to actually physically see their relatives, in the summer months, when the weather for not all but most of the UK should be reasonable and that contact can be outdoors?
‘That’s the kind of discussion Government needs to be having with the population so we can re-establish some of that contact.’
She said it is also ‘essential’ that consideration is given to internal UK travel where flights or ferries are needed for visits between Britain and Northern Ireland as well as the islands off Scotland.
The Government will need to balance attempts to protect public health with the human right to have social contact including seeing family, Prof Bauld added.
The possible strategy on getting London back on the move follows Mayor Sadiq Khan warning Transport for London has about a week’s worth of cash to keep itself running, and militant RMT union chiefs saying there is ‘zero chance’ of their members getting back on the buses and trains without personal protective equipment (PPE).
Tory MPs have warned the Government it must spell out in detail how it intends to ease the lockdown to give businesses hope of survival, with senior backbenchers on the 1922 Committee meeting to discuss the response.
They said it is ‘silly’ for ministers not to be totally frank with the public given how well most of the population has stuck to social distancing measures and stressed ‘there has got to be an economy to go back to’ as they sounded a warning which will be heard loud and clear in Downing Street .
However, in a sign tensions are likely to rise, Dominic Raab said it will be weeks before ministers even ‘think about’ putting forward an exit strategy while Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said some restrictions are likely to be in place for the ‘next calendar year’.
Schools could start returning within less than three weeks under a ‘traffic light’ plan being pushed by senior ministers to ease lockdown misery – amid Cabinet splits over whether the government should risk more deaths from the disease to save the plunging economy.
Builders failed to properly socially distance at one site in London yesterday where about 50 had temperature checks before being allowed into No. 1 Palace Street where 72 luxury flats are being built near Buckingham Palace.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the unprecedented lockdown on March 23 to deal with the pandemic as people were ordered to ‘stay at home’. On April 16 this was extended for at least another three weeks until May 7.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Hancock lost his cool as he was grilled over the UK government’s failure to set out its strategy for easing the coronavirus lockdown.
Calls for Downing Street to be frank with the nation have increased after Nicola Sturgeon set out her own plan for Scotland yesterday while Wales is doing the same today and Northern Ireland has signalled it could follow suit.
Mr Hancock and other senior ministers have so far refused to budge on the issue, insisting the focus must remain on slowing the spread of the disease.
But furious Tory MPs have demanded the government ‘bite the bullet’ and set out its strategy to give businesses hope that measures could soon be lifted.
Prof Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh said clear guidance on whether people can safely visit family and friends needs to be ready as soon as any easing of coronavirus lockdown rules is announced.
Indefinite shielding of vulnerable groups such as the over-70s would be ‘incredibly unpalatable and damaging to families’, she said.
Prof Bauld added: ‘Would people be able to drive to actually physically see their relatives, in the summer months, when the weather for not all but most of the UK should be reasonable and that contact can be outdoors?
‘That’s the kind of discussion Government needs to be having with the population so we can re-establish some of that contact.’
The Health Secretary was asked this morning during a bruising interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme why the UK government is refusing to spell out how it will ease restrictions.
But he claimed ministers had ‘released a framework’ as he referred to the government’s five tests which need to be met before lockdown can be reduced. Those tests include a guarantee there will not be second peak of the outbreak.
Half of people witness increase in drivers breaking the speed limit during the coronavirus lockdown
Nearly half of people have witnessed an increase in drivers breaking the speed limit during the coronavirus lockdown, a new survey indicates.
Some 44% of respondents to an RAC poll said they have seen more motorists speeding now than they did before March 23 when the Government introduced the ban on non-essential journeys.
Roads with 30mph limits appear to be the most abused, with 23% of the 2,020 people questioned saying they have seen drivers clearly going too fast.
Department for Transport figures show that road traffic is around two thirds lower than normal due to the lockdown.
Police forces have warned that some drivers are using empty roads as a racetrack.
The Metropolitan Police recently clocked one driver doing 134mph in a 40mph zone, while Greater Manchester Police recorded a driver doing 129mph on the M62.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘It would only take a fraction of a second when driving well over the speed limit for something terrible to happen.
‘Couple this behaviour with the fact there are many cyclists on our roads and more people are having to walk in the road to maintain a safe distance from others on pavements, and you have a recipe for disaster.
‘The last thing the NHS needs as it works night and day to help patients with coronavirus is to have to deal with people injured in avoidable road traffic collisions caused by motorists driving far too fast.’
But presenter Mishal Husain interrupted and told the Health Secretary: ‘You know that is different. We know about your five tests.’
An angry Mr Hancock then hit back and said: ‘It is not different. It is not different because if you read the Scottish document it is essentially a reiteration broadly of those five tests.’
Mr Hancock had lost his cool earlier in the crisis on April 16 on the same subject of lockdown when he insisted the public could not be trusted with an exit strategy because they might stop obeying lockdown rules.
Senior Conservative figures believe there is currently ‘no leadership’ without Boris Johnson who is believed to be targeting a return to work on Monday next week.
The Prime Minister was released from hospital on April 12 following his intensive care battle with coronavirus and he has been recuperating at Chequers since then.
Allies believe the premier is ‘determined’ to return after the weekend and those theories were boosted this morning as Mr Hancock said the PM is on ‘very good form and is clearly recovering’.
Meanwhile, last night Donald Trump said Mr Johnson had been ‘sharp and energetic’ in a phone call on Tuesday.
Mr Hancock said this morning the easing of restrictions would largely be determined by how quickly new cases of coronavirus fall.
He said: ‘It depends on how fast the number of new cases falls now that we are at the peak… and if as and when they do then the speed with which the number of new cases reduces frankly will determine how long we need to keep the measures on. That is as yet unknowable.’
He said he did not have a ‘problem in principle’ with Ms Sturgeon setting out her own plan but he added ‘it is too soon to make the changes’ as he also made the case for the UK to continue to act ‘as one’.
‘My preference is that we work together as one country,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘I think that is where the public has been during this but I also respect the responsibilities that my devolved colleagues have got.’
The issue of when the UK’s lockdown can be lifted is now largely dominating the coronavirus crisis with the government facing increasing political pressure to set out its plans.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told The Guardian: ‘The UK government now needs to recognise that the time is now. They need to bite the bullet and do it.’
He told The Times: ‘The government needs now to explain to the British public that they are planning for the time when we come out of lockdown.
‘We must trust the British public to understand how this will happen. The Scottish administration is right. I want the UK government to be doing the same.’
Former Brexit secretary David Davis said it would be ‘entirely sensible’ for the government to set out ‘what can and can’t be done’.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday published her own blueprint for how to lift restrictions as she said businesses could reopen if they strictly adhere to social distancing measures.
She also said schools could return, potentially with redesigned classrooms so that pupils can stay at least two metres away from each other.
Meanwhile, Arlene Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, said on Wednesday night the country could ease restrictions before the rest of the UK.