The government is facing pressure to give businesses “hope” after a warning that social distancing could last for the rest of the year.
Senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said it must discuss a return to normality or risk businesses folding.
The hospitality industry has warned that maintaining social distancing until next year will be catastrophic.
Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said there is a difficult balance to strike between health and economic concerns.
It comes after the government’s chief medical adviser said the UK would have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year.
Sir Geoffrey, treasurer of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that some companies are “likely to cease trading” unless they receive “some form of indication” of when they can resume business as usual.
“We have to, on behalf of the businesses of this country, begin to give them a little bit of hope as to when we might be able to get back to normality,” he said.
He stressed that the next steps must be carried out “gradually”.
In response, Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Lewis said certain businesses are “starting to reopen more stores” with social distancing measures in place.
However, Mr Lewis said “we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves” and the best way to protect the public and the NHS was to stay at home.
“One of the most damaging things for our economy would be if we came out of lockdown too early,” he said, adding that this would risk a second peak.
Speaking during Wednesday’s daily coronavirus briefing, the government’s Prof Chris Whitty said it was “wholly unrealistic” to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon.
He said “in the long run” the ideal way out would be via a “highly effective vaccine” or drugs to treat the disease.
But he warned that the chance of having those within the next calendar year was “incredibly small”.
“This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to disappear,” he said.
The latest figures show a further 759 people have died with the virus in UK hospitals, bringing the total number of deaths to 18,100.
In other developments:
- Coronavirus is likely to result in a high mortality rate in care homes, Prof Whitty says
- E-commerce giant eBay has built a new pilot e-portal for NHS staff to order personal protective equipment (PPE) which it says is in the final stage of testing
- Downing Street denies anyone put pressure on the Foreign Office permanent secretary to retract his testimony to MPs that a “political decision” was taken not to join EU schemes to source medical equipment
- An RAF plane carrying a delayed delivery of protective equipment has arrived in the UK as the government remains under pressure about NHS supplies
- The last Britons to remain on a cruise ship during the pandemic will finally disembark the Costa Deliziosa in Genoa, Italy, on Wednesday, the Foreign Office says
- A group of 25 doctors has written to the health secretary over concerns about the UK’s current advice on self-isolation for coronavirus
- Delays in diagnosing and treating cancer could lead to more years of lost life than with Covid-19, a leading cancer expert says
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