An inquiry has been launched after details of the government’s proposals to introduce a second national lockdown next week were reported by newspapers.
Boris Johnson will host a press conference with his chief medical and scientific advisers on Saturday afternoon following the leak and is expected to announce new restrictions.
The Times newspaper said the prime minister met with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss “alarming” new pandemic data, and he was initially expected to hold a press conference on Monday.
Other papers – including The Daily Mail and The Sun – also reported Johnson was preparing to introduce a national lockdown.
Watch: Boris Johnson considering national lockdown
It is understood that Downing Street has now launched an investigation to find the source of the story, amid reports the government had wanted to keep the plan quiet until Monday.
Several people in government were said to be “furious” over the leak, Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby reported.
The alleged “briefing” of the story sparked criticism from the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, claiming it had increased pressure on the emergency services.
John Apter, head of the organisation which represents more than 120,000 rank-and-file officers, called for “clear communication” on coronavirus measures.
He tweeted on Saturday morning: “To those briefing selective media on a potential national lockdown please understand the impact this has.
“It creates a media frenzy, causes confusion and ahead of any official announcement encourages some to make the most of their pre-lockdown time. This is not a good mix!”
He added: “This can add immense pressure to the 999 services who are already struggling with the demand they have. Please be more responsible. Clear communication, not corridor briefings.”
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also called for “media briefings” to end.
BCC director-general Adam Marshall added: “Yet again anxious businesses have to wait and worry.
“If the Government is planning another national lockdown it must say so immediately, rather than allow business and market confidence to be further eroded by speculation.”
Meanwhile, a government scientific adviser has said family gatherings at Christmas can be made “relatively safe” if coronavirus cases are brought under control with stringent restrictions.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The idea of a lockdown is to save lives primarily.
“I think the only real way that we have a relatively safe Christmas is to get the incidence right down because otherwise, I think Christmas is very difficult for people – nobody wants to have a disrupted Christmas holiday period where you can’t see your family and so on.”
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