In his first public statement after recovering from COVID-19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the UK people for their commitment to containing the virus and called for patience and determination for the sake of defeating the pandemic and emerging "stronger than ever before."
Johnson qualified the COVID-19 pandemic as the biggest challenge the country faced since World War II, stressing that he does not underestimate the continuing problems.
"It is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer COVID patients. I see real signs now that we are passing through the peak, thanks to ... your good sense, your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving the first clear mission, to prevent our national health service from being overwhelmed ... That is how and why we are now turning over the tide," Johnson said.
This is the moment of risk since many people see the "apparent success" and begin to wonder "whether now is the time to go easy on social distancing measures," the UK prime minister warned.
Johnson said he understands how difficult it is to give up even temporarily on basic freedoms, not see friends and loved ones, and to worry about jobs.
"I understand your impatience, I share your anxiety ... I can see the long-term consequences of the lockdown as clearly as anyone. I entirely share your urgency, it's the government's urgency, and yet we should recognize the risk of the second spike, the risk of losing control of the virus," Johnson said.
Johnson added he was refusing to "throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people" and risk a second outbreak.
"I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of the conflict ... We have collectively flattened the peak. When we are sure that the first phase is over ... then that would be the time to move on to the second phase, in which we will continue to suppress the disease and ... begin gradually to redefine the economic and social restrictions," Johnson said.
It is impossible to make any forecast on the start of the second phase, Johnson warned, pledging that the government will act transparently.
The prime minister has just returned to work after being discharged from a hospital where he'd spent a week, including three nights in intensive care, after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Johnson was admitted to the hospital on 5 April and since he was discharged on 12 April he hasn't been involved in any government work amid the recovery process.
The current lockdown regime in the UK is to last through 7 May and it's believed that Johnson has discussed with ministers a plan for “modifying” the lockdown rather than lifting it, so that restrictions will stay in place even if workplaces and schools start to reopen.
As of Monday, the World Health Organisation has reported a total of 148,381 coronavirus cases in the UK with more than 20,000 fatalities.