Coronavirus lockdown: Boris Johnson says national circuit-breaker can't be ruled out

Andrew Woodcock
·1-min read

Boris Johnson has told MPs he wants to avoid the “disaster” of a national lockdown, but did not rule out a time-limited "circuit-breaker" shutdown if local leaders refuse to co-operate with his regional approach.

Mr Johnson came under pressure from Sir Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons a day after the Labour leader dramatically called for an immediate two or three-week circuit-break to stem the surge in coronavirus cases.

Starmer branded the PM an “opportunist” and accused him of “abandoning the science” after it emerged that his Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) recommended a circuit-break on 21 September.

But Mr Johnson retorted that the Labour leader “wants to close pubs, wants to close bars, wants to close businesses in areas across the country where the incidence is low”.

The PM said that his three-tier approach, which came into effect today and applies regional restrictions depending on the seriousness of local outbreaks, was the best way to avoid the “disaster” of a national lockdown.

But he told MPs that it would work only with the co-operation of regional leaders and urged Sir Keir to put pressure on Labour’s mayors - such as Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham - to accept tighter restrictions.

And pressed by Starmer to say whether he would rule out a circuit-break, he said: "I rule out nothing, of course, in combatting the virus.

“But we are going to do it with the local, the regional approach that can drive down, will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented.”