The UK is “beginning to turn the tide” in the fight against coronavirus but this is not the time to relax the nationwide lockdown, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking in Downing Street as he returned to lead the government’s fight against COVID-19, the prime minister said easing off would be to “throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak” of the virus.
He added: “I ask you to contain your impatience, because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict and in spite of all the suffering we have so nearly succeeded.
“If you can keep going in the way you have, if you can help protect the NHS, then I have no doubt we will together beat this.”
Mr Johnson is back in Number 10 having recovered from the coronavirus.
He spent a week in hospital with persistent symptoms of the virus, including a number of days in intensive care.
The PM has said there is “no question” that the NHS saved his life and admitted that at one stage “things could have gone either way”.
After being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Easter Sunday, Mr Johnson spent two weeks recovering at Chequers, his country retreat.
On his first day back the PM will chair the daily COVID-19 “war cabinet” of senior ministers.
He is also expected to hold one-to-one talks with cabinet colleagues on the progress of their departments in his absence.
One of the key issues the PM will have to contend with is whether to extend the UK’s coronavirus lockdown further, or begin to ease some of the measures.
The restrictions designed to halt the spread of the virus have been in place for more than a month, with the next review of the lockdown measures due to be held by 7 May.