Boris Johnson has urged people not to start gathering indoors as the weather worsens, warning it could undermine the progress made in the fight against the coronavirus.
Speaking at the latest COVID-19 news conference in Downing Street, the prime minister told Britons: “Some of you may be tempted to move the gatherings you’ve been enjoying outdoors indoors out of the rain. I really urge you: don’t do that.”
A total of 39,728 people have now died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for the coronavirus in the UK, an increase of 359 from the day before.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the country had to “tread very carefully” as it started to come out of the coronavirus lockdown.
He said there could still be as many as 8,000 new cases of the virus a day in the UK, while the rate of transmission of COVID-19 remained close to 1.
“We have relatively large numbers still not coming down fast,” Sir Patrick said.
“That gives relatively little room for manoeuvre. We have to tread very cautiously,” he said.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said that although the COVID-19 alert level remained unchanged at 4, the lockdown could start to be eased.
He said this was because the government’s five tests were being met and the two measures were separate and not interlinked.
Mr Johnson said the government had eased the restrictions on gathering outside – with up to six people from different households allowed to meet provided they practise social distancing – “for a very specific reason”.
“The evidence shows the risks of transmission are much lower outdoors,” the PM explained.
“And the risks of passing on the virus are significantly higher indoors which is why gatherings inside other people’s homes are still prohibited.
“Breaking these rules now could undermine and reverse all the progress that we’ve made together.
“I have no doubt that won’t happen.”