Watch: Government dismisses claims of fresh two-week national lockdown
Claims that Boris Johnson was told the UK should go into a full lockdown for two weeks have been rejected by health minister Edward Argar.
The report first emerged on Wednesday night, after former World Health Organization (WHO) director Anthony Costello tweeted that chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty advised the prime minister to implement the measure.
Costello, who is a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, also known as Independent Sage, has been a prominent critic of the government’s response to coronavirus.
He later backtracked on his original tweet, saying that he had been told by “another insider” that “Chris Whitty does not support a two week lockdown”.
I've been told by another insider I respect that Chris Whitty does not support a 2 week lockdown, so I'm pleased to correct the record.— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) September 17, 2020
Argar played down the reports, telling Sky News it is “not something I have seen within the department”.
He said: “The prime minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.”
I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day. Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) September 16, 2020
It comes after nearly 4,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded in one day for the first time since the start of May.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, Matt Hancock confirmed another local lockdown would be implemented in north-east England following a spike in infections.
The measures include a ban on residents socialising with other people outside their own households, table service only in bars and restaurants and the closure of leisure and entertainment venues between 10pm and 5am.
On Wednesday, Johnson said a second national coronavirus lockdown would be “completely wrong”.
The prime minister, appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee, said reimposing lockdown restrictions would be “disastrous” for the country.
Johnson, asked by Conservative MP Julian Knight if the UK can afford another lockdown, responded: “I don’t want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country.
“We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.
“Can we afford it? I very much doubt the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
The prime minister’s comments come after reports emerged suggesting the government has given itself two weeks for its ‘rule of six’ coronavirus law – which bans most social gatherings of more than six people in England – to work.
Commenting on the controversial rule, Johnson added: “We have to make sure we defeat the disease by the means we have set out.
“So when I see people arguing against the ‘rule of six’ or saying the government is coming in too hard on individual liberties, I sympathise with that. But we must, must beat this disease.”