British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work on Monday (April 27) after recovering from a serious coronavirus infection that saw him admitted to intensive care. The PM who spent more than three weeks out of action made a statement outside 10 Downing Street on his return to Westminster.
"I'm sorry I've been away from my desk for much longer than I would have liked," he told reporters outside his official residence and office.
“We are passing through the peak,” the PM said “We are on the brink of achieving that first great mission, to prevent our National Health Service (NHS) from being overwhelmed,” Johnson said, adding that the country was “beginning to turn the tide” against the outbreak.
More than 154,000 people in the United Kingdom have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus and at least 20,795 have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Johnson said he shared business concerns about the length of the nationwide lockdown but he indicated it would be premature to start lifting the restrictions now.
He refused to "throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people" and risk a second peak.
“I ask you to contain your impatience because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict."
Johnson has been facing pressure to release his lockdown "exit strategy" but his speech was short of detail explaining just how measures may eventually be eased. He said there'll be "much more" detail in coming days.
He also stressed that the government will rely on science, but will also listen to opinions from businesses and the opposition when deciding on easing restrictions. "We simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow, or even when, those changes will be made," Johnson added.
Some countries where cases have been falling are starting to ease restrictions on economic activity. Italy outlines plans to ease restrictions from 4 May as it records its lowest daily death toll since mid-March while New Zealand moves out of its toughest lockdown level at midnight. The total number of coronavirus infection cases around the world is now more than 2.96 million and at least 206,265 people have died.
With reporting by BBC