NHS trust leaders have set out four key tests that they say must be passed before Boris Johnson considers easing lockdown restrictions in England.

An NHS leader has warned the Prime Minister coronavirus cases need to drop by more than 640,000 before the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.

NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson has said the number of coronavirus infections needs to plummet to under 50,000 before Boris Johnson can consider easing lockdown.

The most recent figures suggested that 695,400 people in England had coronavirus in the week ending February 6.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there was a “pretty clear view” that “that number needs to come down to around 50,000”.

He has urged Boris Johnson to focus on “data, not just dates” when the Prime Minister sets out his road map out of lockdown on Monday.

Mr Hopson’s organisation, which represents NHS trusts, has set out four “tests” which should guide easing: getting case numbers down, reducing pressure on the NHS, further strides in the vaccination programme and an effective strategy to control future outbreaks.

“If you look at where we are against those four tests, each one of them tells you that we’re still some way away from being able to start relaxing restrictions,” Mr Hopson told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“We had 500 Covid patients in hospitals in September and yet, 15 weeks later, we had 34,000 patients, and we were perilously close to overwhelmed.

“So, what that says to you is that you just need to be really careful before you start relaxing the restrictions prematurely.”

The four key tests explained

Leaders believe there are four key tests that must be passed before the government can ease lockdown restrictions in England.

  • Test 1: Case numbers and the virus reproduction rate (the R rate) must drop to a sufficiently low level that we can be confident the virus will not immediately start re-spreading to the extent that it did last year when restrictions were lifted.
  • Test 2: NHS capacity needs to have returned to levels where we can be confident that the NHS can treat all the patients it needs to
  • Test 3: The vaccination campaign needs to be sufficiently advanced to provide adequate levels of protection before restrictions are relaxed. The government needs to be clear on what level of risk pf mortality and harm it is prepared to accept as it aligns the relaxation of restrictions with the progress of the vaccination campaign.
  • Test 4. We need to be certain that there is a robust and effective strategy to identify and control future outbreaks from the variant strains that now pose the greatest threat from COVID-19.

Dorset Echo: Coronavirus cases need to plummet before lockdown can be eased, Johnson warned. (PA)Coronavirus cases need to plummet before lockdown can be eased, Johnson warned. (PA)

Mr Hopson’s call for the Prime Minister to resist opening up too early came as reports suggested Downing Street is considering a cautious approach to easing the current measures.

The Daily Mail said ministers are weighing up allowing holiday lets to open in time for the Easter weekend and that pubs could open in May, but with only up to two households permitted to mix indoors.

The rule of six would then come into force for mixing inside by June, it added.