The UK government raised the prospects of an end to the lockdown, as the rate of infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus continued to fall across the country on Wednesday.
The NHS Test and Trace is planning to launch a nationwide mass testing scheme under which more than 400,000 quick-result tests will be sent to homes and workplaces every day, according to The Times.
The scheme is part of a plan to ease the lockdown.
The government, however, has been warned by the National Health Service (NHS) that coronavirus cases need to drop below 50,000 before it can consider easing the lockdown.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday, Chris Hopson, the NHS Providers chief executive, urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to focus on the data as opposed to the possible dates in which the country would open up.
The chief executive has set out four tests which should be met before the easing of the lockdown can begin. These include reducing case numbers, reducing pressure on the NHS, strengthening and increasing the vaccination program and creating an effective strategy for future outbreaks.
“If you look at where we are against those four tests, each one of them tells you that we’re still some way away from being able to start relaxing restrictions.” Hopson said, adding that the NHS was “perilously close” to being overwhelmed just before the third lockdown was implemented.
“So, what that says to you is that you just need to be really careful before you start relaxing the restrictions prematurely,” he said.
On Wednesday, 12,718 people tested positive for the coronavirus and between Feb. 11 and 17, 86,026 virus cases were reported. This represents a 24.1% decrease in comparison to the last seven days.
Some 738 deaths were reported within 28 days of testing positive for the virus on Wednesday. Between Feb. 11 and 17, as many as 4,082 people had succumbed to the virus, a 26% decrease compared to the previous week.
The total number of people who have tested positive with the virus stands at more than 4 million, while the death toll reached 129,498.
By the end of Feb. 16, more than 15.94 million people had been administered their first dose of the vaccine with 558,577 people receiving the second. Vaccines are currently administered in two doses 21 days apart.
The latest R range for the UK stands at 0.7-0.9, with the current growth rate at -5% to -2% per day. The R number is a mechanism used to rate the virus’s ability to spread, with R being the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.