Dominic Raab has admitted the government is struggling to get the coronavirus “under control”.
The foreign secretary said he hoped the government could get Covid infection rates stable by Christmas.
Speaking with BBC Breakfast‘s Charlie Stayt, Raab said: “A stitch in time saves nine. We want to make sure that as we go into Christmas that we’ve got the virus under control, [that] we don’t have the risk of a further national lockdown with all the impact on businesses, families, and our society.”
Stayt responded: “I think you just said we want to have the virus under control by Christmas, is that what you just said?”
Raab, who appeared to became defensive, replied: “Look, we’ve got through the peak and got the virus down in terms of hospitalisation and death rates but we’ve seen an uptick in cases. We want to make sure that doesn’t expand.”
He said the measures were there to quash a rise in infections while ensuring the economy continued to function.
But Raab, who was busy doing the breakfast round, told other broadcasters differently.
Raab told Sky News the UK had “succeeded in getting a grip” of the deadly virus and that measures were in place to avoid a second nationwide lockdown.
He repeated a similar line on LBC radio.
He told host Nick Ferrari that over the last six months the government had “got control of the virus” and that it did not want to “see ourselves going back.”
“We said at the outset the winter months would be a challenge. We are taking a preventative suite of measures.”
Raab’s announcement comes exactly six months on since Boris Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown.
During a televised speech on Tuesday evening, the prime minister warned that further measures may be necessary.
“Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour,” he said.
“If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together.
“We need to suppress the virus now, and as for that minority who may continue to flout the rules, we will enforce those rules with tougher penalties and fines of up to £10,000.
“We will put more police out on the streets and use the army to backfill if necessary.
“I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring.”