A former WHO executive has today revealed his four-step strategy to ease Britain out of its draconian coronavirus lockdown.

Professor Karol Sikora, ex-director of the UN body’s cancer unit, said the first step would be to let small businesses with fewer than 50 staff open again on April 27.

Downing Street should then allow all schools to reopen and ease social distancing measures rolled out across the UK on May 4, he said.

Offices, bars and restaurants could then open again on May 18, allowing millions of cooped up Brits to finally start enjoying their summer.

The final step ministers should take would be to ease restrictions on international travel and mass gatherings on June 1, Professor Sikora said.

In a message of hope to anxious Brits, he added that the lockdown is working and that ‘we are flattening the curve’. 

But Professor Sikora said we ‘need to see an exit strategy’ – and posted his opinion on ‘how it could be done safely’.

He tweeted: ‘With more testing, no mutation of the virus and compliance with the rules I think this is a feasible timetable.’ 

Professor Sikora warned his timeline is based on the outbreak peaking this weekend and people ‘behaving themselves’ and following the current rules. 

Professor Karol Sikora, ex-director of the UN body's cancer unit, said the first step would be to let small businesses with fewer than 50 staff open again on April 27

Professor Karol Sikora, ex-director of the UN body’s cancer unit, said the first step would be to let small businesses with fewer than 50 staff open again on April 27

Professor Karol Sikora, ex-director of the UN body's cancer unit, said the first step would be to let small businesses open again on April 27

Professor Karol Sikora, ex-director of the UN body’s cancer unit, said the first step would be to let small businesses open again on April 27

LOCKDOWN IS WORKING, SUGGESTS SYMPTOM-TRACKING APP 

King’s College London scientists today suggested Number 10’s lockdown is working, with figures showing suspected cases have plummeted in a week.

Data from a symptom-tracking app shows there are now around 1.4million Brits with tell-tale signs of the deadly infection – down from 1.9million on April 1.  

KCL researchers, who developed the COVID Symptom Tracker app, say it suggests that people staying at home is starting to slow the outbreak down.

The app – downloaded by 2million Brits – works by the public filling out forms which describe their health and ask about possible coronavirus symptoms.

Healthy people, those who think they may have COVID-19, and those who have been officially diagnosed are all encouraged to take part in it.

One of the app’s developers, Professor Tim Spector, said: ‘It is really encouraging to see that the rate of new symptoms being reported is beginning to fall. 

‘Even though hospital admissions and deaths are still on the rise, we hope that these figures offer a much needed light at the end of the tunnel.  

Professor Spector and his colleagues say that hospital admissions and deaths should start to fall in about two weeks as long as social distancing continues. 

They believe the two week lag is caused by the delay between the start of symptoms and the illness becoming very severe.

Downing Street today announced the lockdown measures will be reviewed around the three-week mark on Easter Monday.

Number 10 imposed the strict measures on March 23, in a desperate attempt to slow the escalating crisis and get the outbreak under control.

Leading scientists believe the situation is now levelling off, with the number of new infections yesterday (3,634) being the lowest since March 31. 

The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance last night sparked hope, saying it was possible the UK was ‘beginning to see’ the curve flattening. 

But he added it would be another ‘week or so’ before they could be sure, indicating lockdown measures would not be eased before then.

And King’s College London scientists today suggested the lockdown is working, with figures showing suspected cases have plummeted by 500,000 in a week.

But de-facto PM Dominic Raab warned ‘taking our foot off the pedal’ would be the ‘worst thing’ the country could do at this stage in the outbreak.

His concerns were echoed by the WHO’s regional director for Europe this morning, who warned against lifting strict lockdowns imposed across the continent. 

Dr Hans Kluge described the current situation as ‘very concerning’ and very clearly added: ‘Now is not the time to relax measures.’

Around half of the 1.4million COVID-19 cases recorded around the world have been in Europe, with Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK the five hardest-hit nations. 

Daily numbers of new patients also appears to be levelling off in Britain despite more people being tested than in the earlier stages of the outbreak.

The COVID Symptom Tracker works by taking people through a questionnaire about how they are feeling and whether they have the typical symptoms of coronavirus

Currently, tests are mostly being rationed to people who are in hospital

The COVID Symptom Tracker works by taking people through a questionnaire about how they are feeling and whether they have the typical symptoms of coronavirus. Currently, tests are mostly being rationed to people who are in hospital

There were 3,634 more positive tests announced yesterday – the lowest number for a week and a 40 per cent drop from the peak of 5,903 on Sunday.

The daily death toll hit a new record high of 786 yesterday, however, as infected Brits continue to die and confirmations filter through from the past fortnight.

Professor Sikora tweeted: ‘If, as I believe, we have reached the peak of infections, the focus will soon turn to how we can safely escape the lockdown. 

He warned ‘extreme caution’ would still be needed when the measures were lifted, in case the crisis began to accelerate again. 

The last of his measures was the easing of restrictions against international travel – the Foreign Office currently advises against all but essential international travel.

Number 10 has yet to release an official exit strategy for Britain to get back on its feet and out of the lockdown.

Antibody tests are considered vital for getting the UK back on its feet and are now being used in Italy, one of the world’s worst-hit nations.

The blood tests, which can confirm if someone has already had COVID-19 and could be immune, are different to the swabs currently being used by the NHS. 

But none of the kits trialled by health chiefs have yet to be proved to be accurate enough for mass-use, the Government claims. 

WHO EXPERT WARNS AGAINST LIFTING LOCKDOWNS AND SAYS IT’S DANGEROUS TO THINK CRISIS IS SLOWING DOWN 

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert today warned against lifting strict lockdowns in place across Europe and said it was ‘dangerous’ to think the crisis is slowing down. 

Dr Hans Kluge, the UN body’s regional director for Europe, described the current situation on the continent as ‘very concerning’, adding: ‘Now is not the time to relax measures.’

Around half of the 1.4million COVID-19 cases recorded around the world have been in Europe, with Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK the five hardest-hit nations.

In a press briefing this morning, Dr Kluge said: ‘To think we are coming close to an end point is a dangerous thing to do.

‘The virus leaves no room for complacency. Relaxing lockdown measures requires careful consideration.’

He added the upcoming Easter weekend was ‘not the time’ to relax restrictions, despite the promise of good weather across much of Europe.

Dr Kluge said: ‘This is not the time to lower our guard. We must soldier on. We are in this together and we will get through this together.’

Britons praised Professor Sikora for sharing his plan, with one saying: ‘This gives me hope from escaping this living hell.’ 

Another said: ‘Even reading this gives a sense of relief and can make the lockdown a bit more bearable.’

One Twitter user described Professor Sikora – who labels himself an optimist – as an ‘absolute breath of fresh air’.

Another social media user responded to his plan with: ‘Can someone please appoint you as a Government advisor?’   

It comes after a bleak prediction yesterday said the UK may suffer more than 60,000 coronavirus deaths and be hit harder than any nation in Europe.

University of Washington researchers estimated that Britain’s death toll would be at least three times more than Italy because of its shortage of hospital beds.

But the alarming projection does not take into account the thousands of beds that will become available at the new NHS Nightingale hospitals.

The number is also in stark contrast to the prediction by the UK’s scientific advisers, who warned around 20,000 people will die during the crisis.

The University of Washington prediction also said April 17 would be the day with the highest number of deaths in the UK (2,932). 

In other promising developments in the pandemic, Wuhan – the Chinese city where the crisis began in December – today lifted its lockdown.

People living in the city, home to 11million people, were allowed to travel elsewhere for the first time since it was sealed off on January 23. 

Downing Street DELAYS decision on ending lockdown: Stay-at-home rules could go on for weeks amid claims coronavirus peak is still a week-and-a-half away – but some ministers hint schools could reopen after Easter

Fears over a power vacuum at the heart of government were fuelled today as the coronavirus lockdown looks set to stretch on for weeks.

Downing Street has confirmed the draconian restrictions will not be reconsidered on Easter Monday as scheduled, with warnings the peak of the outbreak might not come for another week and a half.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said today that the UK was ‘nowhere near’ lifting the controls, while Welsh ministers disclosed their lockdown will stay in place longer. The World Health Organisation has also offered a dire warning about the ‘dangerous’ consequences of relaxing too early.  

However, ministers have suggested they are keen for schools to reopen after Easter if the situation does stabilise, with claims they have little impact on the spread and could help revive the crippled economy.

Boris Johnson is ‘stable’ and ‘responding to treatment’ after a second night in intensive care, with his fever said to have dipped as he remains under constant observation at St Thomas’ in central London.

However, there are fears that even the best outcome from his coronavirus struggle will see him out of action for weeks, with experts warning he could need a ‘phased return’ to work. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ‘deputised’ to fill in for the PM, but the potential issues caused by Mr Johnson’s absence have been underlined as the crucial review of lockdown measures was postponed.

Downing Street merely said there will be a review ‘on or around’ the three-week mark – with the law requiring a technical extension by April 16. 

On another rollercoaster day of developments in the crisis engulfing the globe: 

  • Analysis of official figures shows coronavirus is killing one Briton every two minutes – and Birmingham is the epicentre of the UK’s crisis; 
  • There are fears the government’s bailout for employees could cost up to £40billion over three months, several times the Treasury’s initial estimate; 
  • HM Revenue and Customs has urged furloughed employees to report firms which are still asking them to work, with any company found to be abusing the scheme facing criminal action;
  • President Donald Trump savaged the ‘China centric’ World Health Organisation and suggested US could withhold funding, as he claimed Britain is ‘desperate’ for ventilators and had asked for 200; 
The streets around Westminster were deserted today as Britons obeyed the orders from the government to stay at home

The streets around Westminster were deserted today as Britons obeyed the orders from the government to stay at home

Residents in Brighton were watching the world go by from behind glass as the lockdown looks set to continue for weeks

Residents in Brighton were watching the world go by from behind glass as the lockdown looks set to continue for weeks

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in Whitehall today) has been ‘deputised’ to fill in for the PM, and chaired the government’s daily coronavirus meeting this morning

WHEN DID EUROPE GO INTO LOCKDOWN?

UK

Lockdown imposed: March 24

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,650/335 

Germany

Lockdown imposed: March 22

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 21,463/67

Italy

Lockdown imposed: March 11

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 10,149/631 

Spain

Lockdown imposed: March 14

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 4,231/120 

Austria

Lockdown imposed: March 16

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/1 

France

Lockdown imposed: March 17

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,573/148 

Belgium

Lockdown imposed: March 18

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 1,486/14 

Denmark

Lockdown imposed: March 18

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 977/4 

Switzerland

Lockdown imposed: March 20

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 3,863/33

Norway

Lockdown imposed: March 24

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 2,371/8

Netherlands

Lockdown imposed: March 15

Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/12 

Sweden

Lockdown imposed: Hasn’t imposed a lockdown

Cases and deaths currently: 6,443/373 

Mr Raab stressed at the daily Downing Street briefing last night that they could not consider easing the lockdown restrictions until it was clear the peak of the epidemic had passed and it could be ‘responsibly done’.

Downing Street confirmed the review would take place after the three-week mark originally committed to by Mr Johnson on March 23 – which meant by Easter Monday.

However, the emergency legislation laid before Parliament three days after the PM’s announcement states that a review must take place every 21 days, with the first deadline being April 16.   

Pressed on when the review will happen, health minister Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When the scientific advice is such that we appear to have gone over the peak and it is safe to do so.’  

London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that an easing of the restrictions could be a long way off. ‘I think we are nowhere near lifting the lockdown,’ he told the BBC.

‘We think the peak, which is the worst part of the virus, is still probably a week and a half away.’ 

WHO regional director Hans Kluge said in an update that relaxing lockdown too early would be ‘dangerous’.

‘We still have a long way to go in the marathon and the progress we have made so far in fighting the virus is extremely fragile,’ he said. 

‘To think we are coming close to an end point would be a dangerous thing to do. The virus leaves no room for error or complacency.

‘Any shift in our response strategy, relaxing of lockdown status or physical distancing measures requires very careful consideration.’ 

But a minister told the Times that reopening schools should be one of the first moves in easing then lockdown. 

Experts have said the closures are likely only to have a limited effect on the spread, and mean much of the workforce are tied up with childcare.

‘We need to be led by the science, of course,’ the minister said. 

But if we can reopen schools after the Easter holidays things could begin to get back to normal. It could kick-start the economy.’ 

There was cautious optimism from chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance last night that the fight against Covid-19 ‘could be moving in the right direction’.  

Sir Patrick said there were signs that the rates of new infections and new hospital admissions for Covid-19 were ‘flattening off’.

But he added it would be another ‘week or so’ before they could be sure, indicating lockdown measures would not be eased before then.

Chris Whitty

Matt Hancock

Chris Whitty and Matt Hancock were in Downing Street for the daily crisis meeting today

In interviews today, health minister Edward Argar said lockdown could only be reviewed 'when the scientific advice is such that we appear to have gone over the peak and it is safe to do so'

In interviews today, health minister Edward Argar said lockdown could only be reviewed ‘when the scientific advice is such that we appear to have gone over the peak and it is safe to do so’

There are tight limits on Mr Raab’s control of government, as he cannot hire or fire ministers and will not have audiences with the Queen, although No10 insists the UK’s military response and nuclear deterrent have not been compromised. 

Downing has given an update on the premier’s condition, saying he is still ‘stable’ and ‘responding to treatment’. His ‘persistent’ temperature has reportedly finally dropped while he has been in hospital, although the spokesman would not confirm.  

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said he continues to receive ‘standard oxygen treatment’ and is ‘breathing without any other assistance’ – making clear he is not on a ventilator.

‘The Prime Minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment,’ the spokesman said.

‘He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas’s Hospital. He’s in good spirits.  

No10 confirmed that the PM has not been doing any work, although they said he has been in contact with aides.

Concerns have emerged about the PM’s care while he was in isolation, amid suggestions he was not physically monitored and only consulted a doctor by video link. 

The UK leader has starkly different arrangements for their health support than in the US, where the president has a dedicated medical team and emergency facilities constantly on standby. 

Tory MP Marcus Fysh is calling for a review of the premier’s medical arrangements, saying the lack of protection has been ‘exposed’ by the latest crisis.  

The UK leader has starkly different arrangements for their health support than in the US, where the president has a dedicated medical team and emergency facilities constantly on standby. 

Mr Fysh told MailOnline the situation was party an historical anomaly due to the different political systems.

‘We’ve got a constitutional monarchy so the monarch is the head of states and has all of that. In America the President is head of state, so that is probably why it has come through in this way. But it is worth considering whether there should in future be special measures for health within the No10 operation.

Paramedics were at work at the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel centre in London today

Paramedics were at work at the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at the ExCel centre in London today

A cleaning van was in Downing Street today as the Prime Minister remains under observation in St Thomas' hospital nearby

A cleaning van was in Downing Street today as the Prime Minister remains under observation in St Thomas’ hospital nearby 

‘I had the privilege of visiting the White House a couple of years ago… all his food is cooked by the US Navy. 

‘He has got a special water system that is protected and separate from the rest of the public system. It is very well organised.

‘They are prepared for every eventuality there in a way I guess has been exposed that we need to think about a bit more.’ 

Mr Raab said he is ‘confident’ the PM will pull through after a worsening of his coronavirus symptoms. 

He said that ministers would not ‘blink or flinch’ from following the instructions Mr Johnson had set out before he was admitted to hospital.

But he appeared reluctant to say whether he would be prepared to take a decision to break with the PM’s strategy while he was still in hospital if he believed a change of direction was necessary.

‘He’s asked me to deputise for him for as long as is necessary, but the normal Cabinet collective responsibility and principles that inform that will apply,’ he said.

President Donald Trump claimed overnight that the UK was ‘desperate’ for ventilators and had called the US with an urgent plea for 200 to treat the sickest patients.

‘We’re going to work it out, we’ve got to work it out,’ he said. ‘They’ve been great partners. They wanted 200, they need them desperately.’ 

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, finally admitted yesterday that the UK needed to learn from the example of Germany where the number of deaths appeared to be growing more slowly.

‘We all know that Germany got ahead in terms of its ability to do testing for the virus and there’s a lot to learn from that and we’ve been trying to learn the lessons from that,’ he said.

The latest official figures from the Department of Health showed that 6,159 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Monday – an increase of 786 on the previous day.

However, Sir Patrick said there were signs the number of new cases ‘could be moving in the right direction’.

‘It’s possible that we’re beginning to see the beginning of change in terms of the curve flattening a little bit. We won’t know that for sure for a week or so,’ he said. 



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