Those ministers hoping Boris Johnson's return to work will herald an imminent easing of lockdown measures face an uphill struggle. With the Prime Minister meeting colleagues this week to solicit advice before deciding which restrictions can be eased, news from Germany is likely to bolster those arguing for a more cautious approach.
Only a week after its easing began with the reopening of shops and schools, Germany may have to re-tighten its lockdown because the virus is spreading too fast. The country’s virus reproduction rate – measuring how many the average person with Covid-19 infects – has increased to 1.0. Any value above 1.0 is seen as leading to an exponential increase in infections. Angela Merkel has said a rise to 1.2 could mean hospitals reach a crisis point in July: 'If we get to 1.2 people, so everyone is infecting 20 per cent more, out of five people one infects two and the rest one, then we will reach the limit of our healthcare system in July'. With the reproduction rate central to UK government discussions on an exit strategy, this will be taken as a worrying sign.
When it comes to the UK's own approach, the Health Secretary had some encouraging news at today's press conference. With just a couple of days to go to meet his target of 100,000 tests by the end of the month, Matt Hancock said tests would now be available to all care home residents and staff in England – regardless of whether they have symptoms. With new figures today from the ONS showing that a third of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales are occurring in care homes, this is a measure that can't come soon enough.