Coronavirus UK: Nicola Sturgeon will not ease Scotland lockdown

Furious Nicola Sturgeon today laid into Boris Johnson over plans to ease lockdown - warning that ditching 'stay at home' guidance at this point would be 'catastrophic'. 

The First Minister took an axe to the UK's united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week - and suggesting it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month. 

The PM is expected to set out the next phase of the response to the crisis in an address to the nation on Sunday night. He said yesterday that 'easements' will be outlined to the restrictions. 

Downing Street played down the extent of the changes this afternoon, saying Mr Johnson told the Cabinet there would be 'maximum caution'. The PM's official spokesman also warned the public against having barbecues on the sunny Bank Holiday weekend, stressing that for now 'social distancing rules remain in place and we would ask everyone to respect them'. 

But ministers have made clear the 'stay at home' mantra will be replaced with a more nuanced approach, while more people will be urged to return to work where possible. 

Ms Sturgeon told a briefing in Edinburgh today that Mr Johnson had so far told her nothing about the proposals, and Cobra meetings had been delayed.

She warned that the crucial 'R' number, for how much the virus is replicating in the country, could be 'hovering around one' - meaning it is close to growing again - and appeared to be worse in Scotland.  

Again pre-empting the Westminster government's actions, with the results of a formal lockdown review due to be announced tonight, Ms Sturgeon said: 'Our assessment of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that the lockdown must be extended at this stage.' 

Meanwhile, Labour's  Keir Starmer has suggested lockdown must stay in place until testing capacity is much higher - after daily numbers slumped below 100,000 again. He said a track and trace regime was critical for controlling the outbreak, and 'if that's going to happen the planning needs to go in now because we need many many more tests than we've got already'.

A poll for MailOnline has also highlighted the challenge 'coronaphobia' will pose to the government getting the country running again.  

The research by Redfield and Wilton Strategies found 62 per cent of Britons are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now. 

Around seven in 10 believe bus and train drivers, teachers, and medical staff should have the right to refuse to go back to work, even if the government says it is safe. Some 60 per cent say the state should keep covering a proportion of people's wages even if in theory they should be able to resume their jobs. 

In other breakneck developments in the coronavirus crisis today:

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have announced a further 464 coronavirus victims in NHS hospitals;  The PM will address the nation to announce plans for the next phase of lockdown at 7pm on Sunday night;  Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £32million funding injection so doctors and chemists can stay open over the May bank holiday tomorrow;  Ministers are facing demands to get a refund on PPE equipment they boasted about sourcing from Turkey after it emerged it has failed safety standards;  Ministers have blamed the dramatic fall in daily tests from 122,000 to 69,000 on a 'technical issue', despite complaints that the figures were manipulated to make it look as it Matt Hancock's target was hit last week;  Being obese may double the risk of needing hospital treatment for the coronavirus, according to a major study. 

Boris Johnson made his return to PMQs in the House of Commons on Wednesday after a six week absence. He conceded that the UK's coronavirus death toll is 'appalling' but is set to push ahead with the easing of lockdown restrictions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took an axe to the UK's united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week - and suggested it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month

Furious Nicola Sturgeon (pictured right in Edinburgh today) has laid into Boris Johnson (pictured left at PMQs yesterday) over plans to ease lockdown - warning that ditching 'stay at home' guidance at this point would be 'catastrophic'

Exclusive research for MailOnline shows 62 per cent are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now

Exclusive research for MailOnline shows 62 per cent are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now

More than three quarters said they would be behind bus drivers who made the 'personal decision' to stay off because of safety fears, with just 16 per cent saying they would not support them

More than three quarters said they would be behind bus drivers who made the 'personal decision' to stay off because of safety fears, with just 16 per cent saying they would not support them

Six in 10 thought the government should continue to subsidise some of the wages of workers who declined to go back, against just 24 per cent who said they would not favour such a move

Six in 10 thought the government should continue to subsidise some of the wages of workers who declined to go back, against just 24 per cent who said they would not favour such a move

Testing slump blamed on 'technical issue' as Starmer says lockdown must remain in place 

A Cabinet minister blamed a massive slump in coronavirus testing in the last few days on 'a bit of an issue at the labs' today amid mounting criticism of falling numbers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said 'a technical issue' was behind a 43 per cent fall in completed daily tests between last Thursday and yesterday.

His comments came after it was revealed last night that 69,463 took place in the 24 hours to 9am that day, raising concerns over the progress of the testing regime.

The figure is just 57 per cent of the 122,327 tests that Matt Hancock boasted had been carried out on Thursday to meet his pledge of 100,000 tests conducted per day by the end of April. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned this morning that the lockdown should not be lifted until 'many, many more tests' could be done.

Mr Lewis told Sky News today: 'There has been a bit of an issue at the labs, there's been a technical issue. 

'That's not surprising with a completely new test and a new diagnostics system we've put in place. 

'But that technical issue is now dealt with so we'll see that capacity and demand levels coming up.

'But the capacity has remained over demand and above 100,000.' 

The lockdown measures are formally due to be extended this evening, after the Cabinet meets to consider the desperate crisis gripping the nation.

But Mr Johnson is due to unveil the 'exit strategy' on Sunday, laying out immediate 'easements' to the misery of combating the deadly disease. 

There are claims the stay at home message will be replaced with a 'be careful when you're out' mantra, according to one Cabinet minister, who added that the easing of lockdown will be based on how much each step of the plan affects the rate of infection - or R. 

The government is thought to have drawn up a draft 50-page blueprint to gradually ease lockown in staggered steps between now and October. 

This blueprint is expected to lead to a five step roadmap to see Britain leave lockdown completely by Autumn - but an 'emergency brake' could be applied if a second wave of the deadly virus arrives.

However, Mr Johnson faces a battle with Nicola Sturgeon and Labour mayors such as Andy Burnham, who have been warning it is too early for major loosening.

The First Minister took an axe to the UK's united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week - and suggested it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month.  

She told a briefing in Edinburgh today that Mr Johnson had so far told her nothing about the proposals, and Cobra meetings had been delayed.

She warned that the crucial 'R' number, for how much the virus is replicating in the country, could be 'hovering around one' - meaning it is close to growing again.

Ms Sturgeon said there were signs Scotland's outbreak was currently fiercer, potentially because it had started later.   

Again pre-empting the Westminster government's actions, with the results of a formal lockdown review due to be announced tonight, Ms Sturgeon said: 'Our assessment of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that the lockdown must be extended at this stage.'

She insisted she would 'not be pressurised' into lifting measures prematurely, and would act in the best interests of Scotland. 

Ms Sturgeon said: 'The decisions we take now are a matter of life and death and that is why they weigh so heavily.'

Sunak hands GPs and chemists £32m to open on Bank Holiday 

Rishi Sunak is handing £32million to GPs and chemists to ensure they open on bank holiday tomorrow. 

The Chancellor, himself the son of a doctor and pharmacist, has announced that practices will be reimbursed for treating it as a normal working day.

Community pharmacies will be directed to open from 2-5pm. 

Mr Sunak said: 'Growing up, working in my parent's pharmacy in school holidays, I saw how much the local community depended on them in times of need.

'GPs and pharmacies are providing a vital service to patients across the country during this unprecedented outbreak – which is why we ensuring they can remain open on the Bank Holiday.

'I want to thank doctors and pharmacists for all their hard work fighting coronavirus – we are so grateful to them.' 

She said lockdown restrictions will not be formally reviewed again for three weeks, although she stressed changes were possible before then.

She suggested no changes at all will be possible for at least another week. 

'In particular I want to see what our estimates of cases and the R number look like a week from now,' she said.     

She said 'media reports' over the easing of lockdown measures have not been discussed with the Scottish Government but a call with the devolved nations will take place later today.

'I will not be pressured into lifting measures prematurely,' she said, adding that she strongly believes that to drop the 'clear, well understood' stay at home message could be a 'potentially catastrophic mistake'.

No10 was frantically trying to lower expectations for the changes today amid the backlash.

The PM's official spokesman told journalists: 'You will need to be very clear any easement to the guidelines next week will be very limited.' 

And Mr Johnson told the Cabinet that they needed to proceed with 'maximum caution'.

'Cabinet discussed where we are in the response to the coronavirus pandemic and the review which is being into the social distancing measures,' the spokesman said. 

'The PM said that when considering whether there can be any easement of the existing guidelines, that we are not going to do anything that risks a second peak.' 

Mr Johnson told Cabinet: 'We will advance with maximum caution.' 

However, the spokesman effectively confirmed that outdoor activity is one area where there is scope for taking off pressure. 

Nearly two-thirds of those pollled said that parents who refuse to send their children back to school should not face fines

Nearly two-thirds of those pollled said that parents who refuse to send their children back to school should not face fines 

'There is evidence of a very much reduced risk of catching coronavirus outdoors rather than enclosed indoor spaces,' he said. 

In a round of interview this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis frantically tried to play down expectations on the scale of the easing, saying 'although we believe we are through the peak of this virus we are very cautious to ensure that we don't get a second peak'. 

The MailOnline poll, carried out yesterday as part of the Redfield and Wilton Strategies' Global Health and Governance Opinion project, suggests public resistance will be a major obstacle for the government in the coming weeks and months.

UK set to bask in sunshine over Bank Holiday  

People walk along the beach in Poole, Dorset, as they take their daily permitted exercise and walk their dogs during the lockdown. Today will see prolonged sunshine with tomorrow 'very warm' for most as temperatures rocket to 79F (26C)

People walk along the beach in Poole, Dorset, as they take their daily permitted exercise and walk their dogs during the lockdown. Today will see prolonged sunshine with tomorrow 'very warm' for most as temperatures rocket to 79F (26C)

Britons are set to bask in scorching 79F (26C) temperatures tomorrow in the last three days of lockdown sun, before Arctic air brings wintry showers on Sunday and Britain goes back to work next week.

It comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a five-step plan for Britain's 'second phase' of the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, with the government set to drop its 'Stay at Home' message.

Today will see prolonged sunshine with tomorrow 'very warm' as temperatures rocket to 79F (26C). Parts of the country are forecast to be hotter than some of the Europe's top tourist destinations, including Monaco and Corfu.

The fine spell should continue for most areas into Saturday, but many beaches and open spaces are likely to be largely empty as people stay at home due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Temperatures will hit up to 73F (23C) in warm spots today, but heavy and potentially thundery showers could develop in some areas of Wales.

But the warmth will be short-lived as Arctic air blasts the nation on Sunday, bringing wintry showers in the north.

Some 62 per cent said they were most worried about the lockdown being relaxed 'too quickly', while 38 per cent said their biggest concern was about the economic impact of the curbs lasting 'too much longer'. 

Even if the government loosened lockdown in line with scientific advice, there was

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