Dominic Raab, who has been a substitute since Johnson was hospitalized with Covid-19 last month, said on Sunday that it was inconceivable that the children could return to school without “other measures” to control the spread of the virus.
He also suggested that companies hoping to return to work in what he called the “second phase” of the crisis should learn from essential stores and other workplaces that remained open, using the example of queues. remote waiting areas outside supermarkets.
“There are all kinds of precautions that companies have taken. If you think these are the measures that we have taken for essential businesses that have not closed, you can see how, in various ways, they could be extended to the non-essential businesses that are currently closed, “he said. to Andrew Marr of the BBC. .
“We will not only have this binary relaxation of the measures. We will end up moving to a new normal. “
Johnson, who has facilitated his return to work with video conferences and a three-hour meeting with key ministers at Checkers on Friday, will return to his office in number 10, under increasing pressure from some members of his own party to raise restrictions.
Raab said that Johnson would be “back to work full-time, properly, at the helm” and that he is “ready to go.” The foreclosure measures, imposed on March 23, are expected to be formally reviewed on May 7.
Prime Minister’s personal role in the earlier phase of managing the epidemic has come under criticism in his absence, while government has come under constant pressure over the lack of PPE for frontline health workers and the lack of tests.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock finally announced last week that he would be looking for 18,000 volunteers to track and trace the cases of Covid-19. Labor has been clamoring for contact tracing for weeks, as have public health experts and Hancock’s predecessor, Jeremy Hunt.
Many other countries have also implemented health checks and quarantine restrictions for passengers arriving at airports.
Confirming that the government is now considering such measures, Raab insisted that medical advice had previously suggested that it would not be effective while the virus was circulating freely in the UK.
In a letter to Johnson this weekend, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said, “I fear we are falling behind the rest of the world.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will highlight the costs of shutting down the economy to deal with the crisis on Monday as he makes a statement in the House of Commons on the Treasury’s response to the crisis.
He will report forecasts from the Independent Budget Accountability Office which suggest that a three-month lockdown could lead to a catastrophic 35% drop in GDP in the second quarter of the year.
Sunak is one of those ministers who are keen to reopen some businesses, and officials have worked on proposals to decide which should come first – based on how easily they work safely and how critical they are to the business. economy.
However, Raab is cautious about lifting the restrictions too early and in several interviews on Sunday, he repeatedly stressed the risks of avoiding a second peak of infections, which he said would harm the economy as well as ‘to public health.
“We have to make sure of two things: first, we are not risking a second peak, for all the reasons we have mentioned. Second, overall, this package does not allow the coronavirus to take over, to spread more widely, and to reverse all the progress we have made or the sacrifices made by so many people, “he said. declared.
He also echoed the warning from Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer of Health, that a vaccine is unlikely to be widely available this year.
Raab declined to say what physical distance in schools could mean in practice – although Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Prime Minister, suggested that in Scotland, this could involve staggered attendance by different age groups.
“It would be neither fair nor safe to open schools right now and that could continue to be the case for some time to come, but the point that I think everyone is trying to make their heads spin right now is that when we get very restrictive out of it, we’re not going to go back to normal as we know it, “Sturgeon told Marr.
“This is what I have described – and many others have used this expression – a new standard that we are looking for where social distancing will be part of life for a while longer and where different methods of functioning will have to be considered . “