No end to lockdown yet but 'careful' easing begins -British PM Johnson

"We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdown will not end yet, but he outlined plans to begin slowly easing measures that have closed much of the economy for seven weeks.

"No, this is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures. And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week. We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work. And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.

The U.K. government has faced criticism over its handling of the pandemic and Johnson is wary of taking the brakes off too soon. Britain’s coronavirus death toll of close to 32,000 is the second highest in the world, behind the United States.

"You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them. And so every day, with ever increasing data, we will be monitoring the R and the number of new infections, and the progress we are making. And if we as a nation begin to fulfill the conditions I have set out, then in the next few weeks and months we may be able to go further."

Johnson said he would set out further details to parliament on Monday, when a “roadmap” document will be published.

"We have been through the initial peak. But it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous."