UK coronavirus live: minister dismisses claim PM preparing for new two-week national lockdown | Politics

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Good morning. Later today Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is expected to announce details of new coronavirus restrictions being imposed in the north east of England, but it could be much worse. Late last night Anthony Costello, a former director of the WHO, a former head of the Institute for Global Health at University College London and a regular commentator on coronavirus, sent a jolt of alarm through Twitter with this.

Anthony Costello

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.

September 16, 2020

This morning his claim has been knocked down, by two good sources. This is what Edward Argar, the health minister, told Sky News when asked about the claim.

It is not something I have seen within the department. 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.

Later, on the Today programme, Argar also said this was not something that he had heard from Whitty himself.

And Costello himself has retracted his claim. He posted this on Twitter about half an hour ago.

Anthony Costello

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.

September 17, 2020

Of course, the truth or otherwise of this speculation may depend on how you define “national lockdown”. The Telegraph is reporting this morning that “office staff will be given a “work from home” order within a fortnight if the “rule of six” fails to bring down coronavirus infection rates”. It attributes the story to unnamed senior government sources.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes its regular update on the economic impact of coronavirus.

9.30am: Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee on coronavirus.

Morning: NHS Test and Trace is due to publish its weekly performance indicators.

Around 11.30am: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, gives a statement to MPs on coronavirus. He is expected to announce details of new restrictions for parts of north east England.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.20pm: Nicola Sturgeon takes first minister’s questions in the Scottish parliament.

Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, like Brexit, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK coronavirus live: minister dismisses claim PM preparing for new two-week national lockdown | Politics

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