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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson admits ‘frustration’ as revolt grows over strategy for easing COVID-19 lockdown | UK News



The prime minister has admitted his government’s plans for easing the coronavirus lockdown are causing “frustration”, as he faces a growing revolt from doctors, nurses, teachers and regional councils.

Boris Johnson acknowledged the situation had become more “complex” but said he would trust what he called “the good sense of the British people”.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “I understand people will feel frustrated with some of the new rules. We are trying to do something that has never had to be done before – moving the country out of a full lockdown, in a way which is safe and does not risk sacrificing all of your hard work.

“I recognise what we are now asking is more complex than simply staying at home, but this is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people.”

It comes as some councils in the regions have said they would support teaching unions in resisting the reopening of schools in England in June.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have refused to follow Mr Johnson’s strategy for easing the lockdown, while cities such as Liverpool have said they will not start reopening schools in June as the government wants.

Talks between teachers’ union representatives and government scientific advisers, intended to provide assurance about the government’s proposals to enable children to return safely, ended on Friday with union leaders saying it had raised more questions than answers.

Andy Burnham on SROS
Andy Burnham says Mr Johnson must listen to regional concerns

Meanwhile, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has warned of a “fracturing of national unity” if Mr Johnson ignores the concerns of the regions over his roadmap out of the COVID-19 crisis.

He said the prime minister had failed to inform civic leaders of his easing of the lockdown restrictions in advance despite the fact they were the ones who had to deal with demands on the transport system.

The government’s change from “stay at home” to “stay alert” advice came as cases of COVID-19 and the virus’s reproduction rate – known as the R number – were falling in the South East, but Mr Burnham said he believed it had come too soon for the north.

In an article in The Observer, he warned that without additional support for the regions, there was a danger of a “second spike” in the disease which could then spread again through the Midlands to London.

Generic school

Parents fearful of sending children to school

Mr Burnham said that despite taking part in a call two weeks ago with Mr Johnson and eight other regional mayors, he was given no real notice of the measures announced by the prime minister in his address to the nation last Sunday.

He said: “On the eve of a new working week, the PM was on TV ‘actively encouraging’ a return to work. Even though that would clearly put more cars on roads and people on trams, no one in government thought it important to tell the cities that would have to cope with that.”

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Mr Burnham said the lack of notice was not the only issue Greater Manchester had to deal with.

“The surprisingly permissive package might well be right for the South East, given the fall in cases there. But my gut feeling told me it was too soon for the north,” he said.

“Certainly, the abrupt dropping of the clear ‘stay at home’ message felt premature.”

To prevent further divisions, he urged Mr Johnson to appoint West Midlands mayor Andy Street to represent the English regions during meetings of the government’s Cobra emergency committee.


UK COVID-19 deaths rise by 468

Mr Burnham spoke out as a poll reported public support for the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis has slipped sharply.

The survey by Opinium found 39% backed the government’s response, down from 48% a week ago.

Those saying they disapproved have risen from 36% last week to 42%.

Opinium’s head of polling Adam Drummond said it was the first time disapproval of the government’s handling of the crisis was higher than approval.

“In part this was likely inevitable as the relatively simple and almost unanimous decision to lockdown has given way to much more contestable decisions about how and when to open up,” he said.

In his article for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson said he wants the UK to return to “near-normality” by July.

He said the British public’s “fortitude” would enable them to survive the crisis and regain “the freedoms they hold dear” and that people’s “perseverance” and “good common sense” will enable the country to “inch forwards” out of lockdown.

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