Watch: PM refuses to ‘rule out’ national lockdown
Boris Johnson says national lockdown would be “disaster”... but then refuses to rule it out
PM insists “circuit breaker” lockdown won’t be needed as his three-tier localised system will drive down infections
It comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s dramatic intervention on Tuesday in which he demanded a circuit breaker
Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a national lockdown... after saying it would be a “disaster”.
In his latest Prime Minister’s Questions clash with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Johnson issued two contradictory statements about the possibility of imposing national restrictions.
It comes after Starmer’s press conference on Tuesday in which he demanded a “circuit breaker” national lockdown in England, lasting up to three weeks, to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.
In one exchange, Johnson said: “What none of us want to see except [Starmer] having performed this extraordinary U-turn, is the disaster – in the words of the shadow health spokesman – of a national lockdown.
“We don’t want to go there, we want the regional approach, he [Starmer] should co-operate with it.”
However, Starmer then quoted media reports saying there is an 80% chance of Johnson backing a circuit breaker national lockdown within the next two weeks.
Johnson then admitted he wouldn’t rule it out: “We see this as a national crisis that we are going to turn around. I rule out nothing, of course, in combatting the virus.”
Some MPs could then be heard sarcastically murmuring: “Ah.”
However, the PM also reiterated his commitment to the three-tier local lockdown system which came into effect on Wednesday.
“We are going to do it with the local, regional, approach,” Johnson said. “That can and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented. That is what I believe he should be supporting.”
It emerged on Monday that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommended a circuit breaker lockdown last month.
However, Johnson ultimately ignored this in favour of the three-tier system, which he announced on Monday.
The PM is nonetheless under increasing pressure to introduce a circuit breaker, with local leaders in the North speaking out against against the tier system.
A paper published by five members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, which advises SAGE, has also suggested that a short, sharp national lockdown would decrease infections, ease the burden on hospitals and prevent deaths in the winter months.
Watch: How will England's three-tier local lockdown system work?