The United Kingdom is not looking to end the coronavirus lockdown yet, said government minister Michael Gove on Sunday, as the national COVID-19 death toll rose to above 16,000.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove responded to a Buzzfeed report that the government was considering steadily lifting the quarantine restrictions in a "three-stage" process.
"The facts and the advice are clear at the moment that we should not be thinking of lifting these restrictions yet", Gove told Sky News.
"One of the things that is deeply worrying and concerning is the high level of deaths," he added.
"The evidence suggests that the rate of infection and the death rate is flattening, but we're not absolutely certain that we are yet on a downward trajectory".
"We should not be thinking of lifting these restrictions yet."— SkyNews (@SkyNews) April 19, 2020
Michael Gove tells #Ridge that reports the government has drawn up a three-stage plan on ending the #coronavirus lockdown is not true.#COVID latest: https://t.co/7E70O1EDLu pic.twitter.com/hvmy9qBRVs
Gove's comments come as data shows that the UK's coronavirus death toll rose by 596 to 16,060 on Sunday - the lowest daily increase in two weeks.
The UK currently has the fifth highest death toll of any country which has been afflicted by the pandemic that has caused 150,000 deaths globally.
As the coronavirus spreads across the country, the UK's hospitals are beginning to come under strain and front-line health workers have criticised the government's advice to reuse protective equipment, as shortages of essential materials begin to take their toll.
The United States has suggested that it intends to begin lifting its own lockdown measures in order to boost the economy.
President Trump has previously said that the "cure cannot be worse than the problem itself" and earlier expressed hope that the social distancing measures would be over by Easter.