Michael Gove has suggested island communities could be let out of the coronavirus lockdown earlier than the rest of the UK.
The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is one of Boris Johnson’s key lieutenants in the government’s COVID-19 response, said some island communities could be used for pilots in easing the lockdown measures.
The UK’s draconian lockdown will remain in place until next Thursday, when it will be reviewed. It was first imposed on 23 March.
Gove, appearing before the public administration and constitutional affairs committee on Wednesday, suggested the Isle of Wight could be used as a “trial” for contact tracing as an “opportunity” to see how the restrictions can be relaxed.
He told MPs: “My own personal view is that it is preferable if we do it [lift the lockdown] as one United Kingdom.
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“But there is a specific scientific justification for saying that island communities can be areas where you could pilot some measures, contact tracing in particular, in order to combine that with relaxing measures at a progressively greater rate.
“That can help you judge what is right for the country overall.”
As Johnson returned to work on Monday following his own coronavirus ordeal which left him in intensive care, he said details on how the UK may come out of lockdown will be released over the “coming days”.
Number 10 has come under pressure to share its exit strategy, with the devolved Scottish government having already done so.
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On Tuesday, the Scotland also issued guidance to wear face coverings while food shopping and using public transport.
Again, this is something Downing Street has resisted, with Gove quizzed on the matter on Wednesday.
He claimed the government is anxious people would act in a “cavalier” way if told to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The scientific evidence so far says face coverings can have an effect in preventing an individual from spreading the disease to others if they have it and are asymptomatic.
“But there is also a worry that some people may think that wearing a mask protects themselves, as distinct to protecting others, and therefore they may behave in a manner that is slightly more cavalier.
“So it is a finely based judgment. That judgment is being made collectively, with respect by the analysis of the science, by the cabinet and I know it is a situation that is under review.”