The coronavirus lockdown could remain in place until the end of May, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson has suggested.
The PM’s official spokesman was asked about reports that the lockdown may be extended until June at a Westminster briefing.
He said: “I think we will have to wait for the review to take place and I don’t think it is wise for me to pre-empt that.
“What you’ve obviously heard from Chris Whitty is that this is a disease that is going to be around for a significant amount of time – he’s said we have to be realistic, we’re going to have to do a lot of things for a long period of time.”
The prime minister will take charge of the press briefing for the first time since recovering from COVID-19.
He chaired a remote meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday morning, just one day after becoming a father again.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance updated Cabinet on the response to coronavirus so far and the progress made in slowing the spread of the disease
With another week to go before an official review into lockdown must take place, Johnson is facing calls to announce measures to lift the most stringent of rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the PM to publish an exit strategy for the lockdown measures on Thursday.
He said in an interview with ITV News: “I think the government were slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on protective equipment, and may now be slow on our exit strategy.”
With the UK's coronavirus death toll now the third highest in the world after the US and Italy, Downing Street is playing down any expectations of an easing of restrictions.
That response was facing further criticism as health secretary Matt Hancock's deadline arrived for carrying out 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day.
Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice
With just over 52,000 tests carried out on Tuesday, justice secretary Robert Buckland said the target would “probably” be missed – although that will not become clear until Friday.
Buckland told BBC Breakfast: ”Even if it isn't met, we're well on our way to ramping this up and 100,000 is an important milestone, but frankly we need more.
"If he (Matt Hancock) hadn't set a target he would have been criticised for being unambitious. I think now is the time in respect of this to be bold... being brave is something we should acknowledge even if the target isn't met today."
The target has been condemned by the NHS Providers group as a "red herring" which distracts from shortcomings in the long-term coronavirus strategy.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is looking at a selection of options for easing restrictions while keeping the reproduction rate of the coronavirus – the number of new cases linked to a single individual – below one to stop it spreading exponentially.
The possible move to relax lockdown comes after it was announced that a total of 26,097 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK after contracting COVID-19.
It is the first time data on the number of deaths in care homes and the wider community has been included in the government's daily updates.
The total is around 17% higher than previous data showed and includes an additional 3,811 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.
Of these, about 70% were outside hospital settings.
The change in measurement means the UK death toll is the third highest in the world, behind the US and Italy, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.
The US had reported 58,355 deaths and Italy 27,359.
The government pointed out other countries may report figures differently and any lag is unclear, although France and Italy also include deaths in care homes.