“Careful steps” are needed when easing the lockdown so social distancing will be with us for “some time”, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
He told the BBC that passing 20,000 deaths in the UK was “heartbreaking” but the toll could have been “much worse” without the strict measures.
However, Mr Raab did hint at some ways schools, sport and businesses could begin to return to “a new normal”.
It comes as the prime minister is set to return to work on Monday morning.
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The government has been under pressure from Labour to set out its “exit strategy” for lifting the lockdown.
Mr Raab, who has been deputising for Boris Johnson while he recovers from coronavirus, said it was not responsible to start announcing specific proposals until evidence was available to support them as this could risk “misleading” the public.
Rather than a “binary” easing of measures, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the country would end up “moving to a new normal”.
Mr Raab said it would be “inconceivable” that schools would return without further social distancing measures similar to those already in place at schools which are open for the much smaller numbers of vulnerable children and children of key workers.
But he would not be drawn on a suggestion that this would mean groups of pupils returning to lessons on different days or times to keep pupil numbers down.
He suggested social distancing measures already being seen in food shops and other businesses that have remained operating could also be expanded to non-essential businesses if they were to reopen.
Asked whether there was any chance of people being able to play sport outside this summer, Mr Raab said this would be “very difficult because of the level and scale of interaction”.
But he added: “I think the professional sport may be different because of the scale of testing that they would be able to introduce.”