- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2020

The United Kingdom has passed its peak of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.

“I can confirm today that for the first time, we are past the peak of this disease,” Mr. Johnson said in his first press conference since returning to work after his own battle with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. His fiancee also gave birth to a baby boy Wednesday.

“We’re past the peak and we’re on the downward slope, and we have so many reasons to be hopeful for the long term,” he said.

Britain has the second-highest European death toll amid the pandemic at 26,097, trailing only Italy at 27,967.

Britain has reported 166,443 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 859 recoveries. The country has a population of 66 million.

Calls have been growing within the country for the government to ease some lockdown measures, but experts have cautioned that loosening restrictions prematurely could cause a resurgence of the virus.

“It is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second, and even bigger mountain,” the prime minister said, but vowed to announce a strategy to ease restrictions and kick-start the economy next week.

Six weeks ago, the U.K. implemented strict lockdown and social distancing restrictions. The timing of the implementation has been subjected to criticism from the opposing party, which has said the government was too slow to take action.

But Mr. Johnson defended the move and said the country avoided a “catastrophic event.”

“It’s thanks to that massive collective effort to shield the [National Health Service] that we avoided an uncontrollable and catastrophic epidemic, where the reasonable worst-case scenario was 500,000 deaths,” he said.

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