Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson says lockdown over coronavirus cannot yet be eased as UK faces 'maximum risk'

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a statement in Downing Street in central London on April 27, 2020 after returning to work following more than three weeks off after being hospitalized with the COVID-19 illness. (AFP photo)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns that it is still too soon to ease the coronavirus lockdown since the UK is at the point of "maximum risk".

Appearing in public for the first time since his return to work, Johnson said there were signs the country was "turning the tide" against the virus but entreated the public to be patient as it was too early to lift the restrictions.

Speaking outside Downing Street on Monday, Johnson said, "It is still true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war and I in no way minimize the continuing problems we face."

    "And yet it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer COVID patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak."

The premier also thanked Britons for their "forbearance" and “collective national resolve” during the pandemic.

    "And thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere."

"And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide," he noted.

Johnson, who was admitted to hospital ten days after he first had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, was released on April 12 and has ever since been recuperating at the British prime ministerial retreat, Chequers, outside London.

His return to work on Monday comes as pressure has intensified on his government on several fronts over its handling of the crisis.

So far, the coronavirus has affected more than 152,000 and killed over 20,700 across the United Kingdom.

Passing 20,000 was an undesirable milestone, as the medical director of NHS England Stephen Powis and Britain's chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance had previously said that keeping the number of fatalities under 20,000 would be "a good outcome".

The new figures show Britain has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

There has also been criticism of the government over shortages in personal protective equipment and a lack of widespread testing in the UK.