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April 27, 2020, 6:52 a.m. EDT

Boris Johnson pledges to ‘fire up the engines of this vast U.K. economy’ on first day back after surviving coronavirus

U.K. will announce preparations for a second phase of the coronavirus lockdown but urges people to continue taking current measures seriously

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By Archie Mitchell and Ryan Weeks

Getty Images
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street before making a speech as he returns to work following his recovery from COVID-19 on April 27, 2020 in London, England.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to “fire up the engines of this vast U.K. economy” on his first day back to work having survived days spent in intensive suffering from coronavirus.

However, he urged Brits to continue taking social distancing measures seriously as the first phase of the battle against the coronavirus comes to an end.

He said the tide is turning and that in the coming days the government would offer more information about easing the countrywide lockdown. On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will likely begin to reopen the economy in certain areas “with certain precautions after May 15.”

The U.K. is taking a more cautious approach. “If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger…this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor,” Johnson said outside Downing Street on Monday.

Read: Nearly 6 in 10 in new poll fear U.S. moving too quickly to ease coronavirus restrictions

Johnson said that he understood the impatience and anxiety of British business owners. “I ask you to contain your impatience because I believe that we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict,” he said .

But he said the risk of easing restrictions prematurely was a second peak, which would mean “economic disaster” and “a new wave of death and disease.”

The first wave will be over, according to the Prime Minister, when the government is sure the health service is safe from being overwhelmed, the supply of personal protective equipment is secure and the risk of a second peak minimal.

Then the government will slowly ease restrictions. “One by one, to fire up the engines of this vast U.K. economy,” he said.

Read: A glimmer of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel in Spain

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced plans to ease the country’s lockdown beginning May 4, and other European countries are beginning to relax measures as well.

The U.K.’s official coronavirus death toll has passed 20,000 and Italy’s is 26,644.

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