Minister downplays suggestion country could be forced into lockdown due to testing problems

PUBLISHED: 08:33 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 09:13 17 September 2020

Edward Argar appears on Sky News. Photograph: Sky.

Edward Argar appears on Sky News. Photograph: Sky.

Archant

A health minister has downplayed suggestions the country could be forced into another lockdown due to the government’s problems with testing.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson, alongside Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (right), during a press conference at Downing Street. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/PA.Prime Minister Boris Johnson, alongside Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (right), during a press conference at Downing Street. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/PA.

Ex-WHO expert Anthony Costello claimed that chief medical officer Chris Whitty is pushing for a two week restriction, despite Boris Johnson ruling out the idea.

He tweeted: “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.”

But Johnson ruled out the idea when speaking at the liaision committee hours before, telling MPs: “I don’t want a second national lockdown - I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.”

He added: “And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.

Health minister Edward Argar played down the reports, suggesting he had not seen any discussions being had.

He told Sky News: “We are guided by the science, but we are 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 doesn’t want to see.”

He added: “It’s not something I want to see.”


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He continued: “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.”

ITV’s political editor, however, reports that the government has given itself two weeks for its “rule of six” coronavirus law to work before it reimposes tougher lockdown measures.

Peston quoted a Downing Street insider as saying: “There is no possibility of us waiting for the death rate to rise before we act.”

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