Health Minister Edward Argar has dismissed claims Boris Johnson said the UK must enter a full lockdown for two weeks.
The report was first released on Wednesday evening, after former World Health Organization (WHO) director Anthony Costello, who is also a member of the Independent Sage, tweeted that the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, had advised the Prime Minister to implement the measure.
It comes after nearly 4,000 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in one day for the first time since the beginning of May.
However, Argar played down the reports, telling Sky News it’s not something I’ve seen within the department.
I heard from a well-connected person that the government now thinks, in the absence of testing, that there are 38,000 infections a day. Chris Whitty advises the PM on a two-week nationwide lockdown.
Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) September 16, 2020
He said: The Prime Minister has been very clear about this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people obeying the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.
Costello later returned to his original tweet, claiming that another insider told him Chris Whitty did not support a two-week lockdown.
Another insider I respect told me Chris Whitty can’t stand a 2 week lockdown so I’m happy to set the record straight.
Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) September 17, 2020
While more lockdowns are expected to be announced in the north-east of England, Argar said the region is peaking in cases similar to the north-west.
In the Northeast, we are seeing an increase in infections. This is exactly what we saw in the Northwest. We are monitoring this rate. Where we need it, we step in and act, he said.
Argar said that in the Northwest, the hike was driven in part by people failing to meet social distancing requirements.
Obviously, a nighttime economy will fuel this with people going out late at night.
Johnson said on Wednesday that a second national coronavirus lockdown would be completely false.
The prime minister, who appeared before the House of Commons Liaison Committee, said the reimposition of lockdown restrictions would be disastrous for the country.
Johnson, asked by Tory MP Julian Knight if the UK can afford another lockdown, replied: I don’t want a second national lockdown, I think that would be completely wrong for this country.
We will do everything in our power to prevent it.
Can we afford it? I very much doubt the financial consequences will be anything but dire.
The Prime Ministers’ comments come as reports suggest 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 from working.
Commenting on the controversial rule, Johnson added: We have to make sure we beat the disease in the ways that we have defined.
So when I see people arguing about the rule of six or saying that the government is attacking individual freedoms too much, I understand that. But we must, must overcome this disease.
Coronavirus: what happened today
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