“This plan contains welcome recognition that the biggest threat to life remains the risk of a second peak that overwhelms the healthcare system this winter, when it will be under more pressure and the NHS still needs to deliver non-urgent care.
"Now is not the time to throw away the gains made in controlling the virus. Everyone is desperate to return to some kind of normality, but the NHS is still treating thousands of patients with COVID-19 and there is a tragedy unfolding in care homes. We have not yet cracked the PPE challenge nor access to testing, and we are not ready to roll out the test, track, trace strategy.
“However, the difference in emphasis of the message about staying at home between England and countries including Wales and Scotland is concerning.
“The greatest chance of success we have of safely beginning to lift lockdown measures and ultimately to ease social distancing must be if a clear central message is communicated across the UK and that is not the case here.
“The emphasis on face coverings rather than face masks is encouraging because NHS face mask supply must not be compromised by public demand. Mask distribution must be prioritised for health and care staff, as well as essential workers in community pharmacies and supermarkets who cannot avoid being within two metres of customers.
“The challenge facing the NHS is enormous. There is now a huge backlog of unmet demand, longer waiting lists for operations and thousands of patients who have had their treatment postposed.
“The NHS has been open for business throughout this pandemic but we know many patients have not sought help when they needed it and that is a real cause of concern.”