UK

Government dismisses claims of fresh two-week national lockdown

A government minister has dismissed suggestions the UK could be heading for a two-week national lockdown.

Edward Argar, a minister in the Department of Health and Social Care, rubbished claims that Boris Johnson is being advised to take the action due to a rise in coronavirus infections.

It came after claims from a former World Health Organisation (WHO) director that England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was recommending the prime minister enforce another UK-wide lockdown.

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Image: A deserted Piccadilly Circus in London during the UK's lockdown in April

Mr Argar told Sky News' Kay Burley: "It's not something that I've heard about, I know there's speculation in the press today. But it's not something I've seen within the department.

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"The prime minister has been very clear about 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 and get that infection rate down."

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Anthony Costello, a former director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the WHO, had claimed Professor Whitty was recommending the two-week lockdown.

He posted on Twitter on Wednesday night: "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."

Mr Argar dismissed the claim, and Mr Costello himself also cast doubt on the suggestion in a follow-up tweet on Thursday morning.

He tweeted: "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."

Mr Argar said: "We are guided by the science but we're not necessarily guided by the speculation in the press. It's not something I've heard from Chris. And it's something the prime minister clearly doesn't want to see."

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On Wednesday, the prime minister firmly dismissed the prospect of a second national lockdown and suggested the economic impact of such action would be "disastrous".

"I don't want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country," he told a group of senior MPs.

"We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.

"Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous."

The government has said it will now prioritise COVID-19 tests for some groups after it admitted fixing issues with the system could take a matter of weeks.

Mr Johnson has pointed to a "colossal spike" in demand for tests as being to blame for shortages in some areas.

On Wednesday, there were 3,991 new confirmed cases of coronavirus.

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