People should continue obeying the coronavirus lockdown this bank holiday weekend, ministers have said, despite sunny weather forecast in some areas.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “important” the public follows the current “stay at home” guidance.
It comes after the Welsh and Scottish governments accused No 10 of sending “mixed messages” about the lockdown.
Boris Johnson will make a televised speech on Sunday to outline plans for the next stage of England’s lockdown.
Wales is due to announce its lockdown plans later on Friday. Scotland’s lockdown has already been formally extended and the Northern Ireland Executive said there was “no headroom” yet to ease the lockdown.
Some police forces have already told people to avoid beauty spots and warned there will be officers on patrol.
Speaking at the government’s daily briefing on Thursday, Mr Raab said: “For the moment it is really important, particularly as people look towards a warm bank holiday weekend, that we continue to follow the guidance in place at this time.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman also said the lockdown rules were still in force.
When asked if that meant “don’t sunbathe this weekend”, the spokesman replied: “If you want to put it like that.”
‘Need a clear message’
The repeated instruction to stay at home comes after widespread reports in newspapers earlier this week speculated about which lockdown measures could be lifted when Mr Johnson makes his speech on Sunday.
Some newspapers suggested the rules on exercise could be relaxed and more people encouraged to return to work.
BBC Newsnight’s political editor Nicholas Watt said the government “had a wobble” after Mr Johnson “gave the impression to some people that more significant changes were on the way”.
Mr Johnson had said in the Commons on Wednesday he wanted to possibly “get going” with some measures to ease lockdown on Monday.
The Welsh government criticised the media reports, saying they risked sending “mixed messages” to the public.
Former Conservative minister David Lidington also told BBC Newsnight that “there needs to be a clear but above all a consistent message”.
“Not only every minister needs to be saying the same thing but ‘sources close to, advisers, confidants of’ need to be repeating what the ministers themselves have decided.”
Earlier, Mr Raab said media reports were “not a reliable guide” to future policy decisions.
“Any changes in the short term will be modest, small, incremental and very carefully monitored,” he said.
‘Care home epidemic’
John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said latest estimates of the virus’ reproduction value – known as the R number – is currently between 0.75 and one. UK public health bodies want the R number to stay below one.
Prof Edmunds told MPs he believed the R number had risen in the past two weeks, despite the lockdown. Office for National Statistics chief Sir Ian Diamond Thursday’s No 10 briefing that assessment was driven by spread in care homes.
“That gives us a real challenge to reduce the epidemic in care homes and it’s one that I think – over the next few weeks from what I see happening – will happen,” Sir Ian said.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to make their own decisions on lockdown regulations.
No 10 has said Mr Johnson is in favour of a UK-wide approach, even if different parts begin to move at slightly different speeds based on the evidence for each nation.
Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt said the UK government’s current lockdown will continue for another three weeks “but they will be looking at an easing within the current regulations”.
“At the end of those three weeks, if the virus is at bay at that point then the regulations could be changed; the lockdown could be eased,” he said.
Mr Johnson will speak to the nation about the lockdown at 19:00 BST on Sunday.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is set to announce his own plans during a press conference at 12.30 on Friday.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who has extended the lockdown – said she would not be “pressured” by Westminster into “prematurely” easing restrictions in Scotland.
According to the latest figures, the total number of people who have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK with coronavirus is 30,615 – a daily increase of 539.
The government missed its 100,000-per-day testing target for the fifth consecutive day on Thursday, providing 86,583 tests. It initially met the target at the end of April.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said everything must be done to care for the elderly.
Referring to VE Day, he said: “We owe so much to the generation of VE Day.
He added: “The crisis in our care homes has gone on for too long and we must do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, many of whom protected our country in its darkest hour.”
In other developments:
- There are plans to increase rail services from 18 May, in preparation for when the lockdown is eased
- Meanwhile on the roads, the RAC says more people are now using their cars than earlier on in the lockdown
- The bosses of more than 60 organisations and businesses – including Iceland Foods, The Body Shop and Ben and Jerry’s – are calling for Mr Johnson to prioritise a “green” UK economic recovery
- The Royal Hospital Chelsea – the retirement home for British veterans – say said nine Chelsea Pensioners have died of coronavirus-related conditions
- Tributes have been paid to Mercury Prize-nominated rapper Ty who has died with coronavirus aged 47
- People across the country applauded NHS workers as part of the seventh week of Clap for Carers.
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