Boris Johnson has suggested that lockdown measures will be maintained, telling Britons “to keep going in the way that you have kept going so far”.
He assured companies and the hospitality sector which has been hit hard by strict social distancing rules that “I understand your impatience, I share your anxiety”.
But, he added: “I must ask you to keep going in the way that you have kept going so far, so we can protect our NHS and save lives.”
The comments come one week before the review point where he will either extend or alter the lockdown.
Earlier, Mr Johnson’s spokesman repeated warnings from England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty that “this is a disease that is going to be around for a significant amount of time”.
He added: “Let’s not pre-empt the review.
“But as the PM himself has said, the worst thing we could do is relax the social distancing measures too soon and throw away all of the progress which has been made thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British public.”
A number of companies and Tory donors have called on the government to let shops reopen to restart the economy due to growing fears firms might collapse, have to close stores or lay off more staff.
Pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues are facing up to a 50% drop in trade, if, as FTSE 100 businesses are already planning for, social distancing measures remain in place until the summer of 2021.
Questions are also being asked about how long the public will continue adhering to the lockdown, after vehicle usage rose to its highest level since the end of March.
The Spectator reported that Mr Johnson is considering only a very small easing of the lockdown to include some recommencing of outdoor activities.
That would continue, the magazine added, until data collection is improved and the workforce of 15,000 who will be part of the “test, track and trace” South Korean model are in place to allow the measures to be eased nationally and only shut down specific regions where there is another outbreak.
Sky News has also revealed the government will test how GP surgeries might react to another outbreak using a new forecasting tool being developed by the NHS.
The system can make predictions about areas as small as 1,000 people.