April 30, 2020 / 8:20 AM / a month ago

REFILE-Sterling stays flat as uncertainty about lockdown measures remains

(Refiles to correct spelling of novel coronavirus in lede paragraph)

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv

By Olga Cotaga

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - The pound was neutral on Thursday and remained driven by global risk appetite, as well as by the fact that Britain seems to lag its European counterparts in planning to ease the lockdown restrictions imposed to fight the novel coronavirus.

Britain now has Europe’s second-highest official COVID-19 death toll with more than 26,000, closely lagging Italy, according to figures published on Wednesday.

The number could be even higher, some experts say. Figures for the number of excess deaths in Britain as a result of the coronavirus will provide a clearer picture of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic but might not be available for a while, England’s deputy chief medical officer said on Wednesday.

Britain, which is expected to have one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in Europe, has said it is too early to talk of easing the lockdown and that it will not review social distancing guidelines until May 7.

Sterling was trading at $1.2470 and 87.29 pence .

“Supportive risk sentiment should put a downward pressure on EUR/GBP, with the cross continuing testing the 0.8700 level,” said ING analysts in a note to clients.

One way to ease the lockdown measurements would be to introduce a contract-tracing app or have enough people tested to separate those who have the disease from those who are healthy.

The could be ready in two to three weeks, a senior official said on Tuesday. But the UK could miss its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April, Justice Minister Robert Buckland said on Thursday.

British businesses should not ignore the lockdown rules for pubs and restaurants to stay closed, Britain’s justice minister, Robert Buckland, said on Thursday, when asked about a plan by JD Wetherspoon to start reopening in or around June.

Reporting by Olga Cotaga, editing by Larry King

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