A government minister has dismissed suggestions that the UK could be heading for a two-week national coronavirus lockdown
On the suggestion of a two-week national lockdown, Edward Argar, a minister within the Department of Health and Social Care, has rubbished claims that the Prime Minister is being advised to take the action due to a rise in COVID-19 infections.
It came after claims from a former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, was recommending that Boris Johnson enforce another UK-wide lockdown.
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.”
“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.”
This comes after local lockdown measures are being imposed in the Welsh county of Rhondda Cynon Taf following a rise in cases of COVID-19 in the region. A cluster of cases in the Welsh county has been traced back to a rugby club’s trip to horse races, which “stopped off at a series of pubs on the way”
A former director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the WHO, Anthony Costello, had claimed that Professor Whitty was recommending the two-week national 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.”
Edward Argar dismissed the claim, and Mr Costello himself has also cast doubt on the suggestion in a follow-up Twitter post 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.”
The UK government has said that it will be prioritising coronavirus tests for some groups of people after admitting that fixing issues within the current system could be a process that takes weeks.
Schoolchildren and parents could be prioritised for COVID-19 tests, after hospitals and care homes, as the UK government deals with “real challenges” in the system, according to a cabinet minister
On Wednesday, prime minister Boris Johnson firmly dismissed the prospect of a second nation-wide lockdown and had suggested that the economic impact of taking such an 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.”