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LONDON (Reuters) -British finance minister Rishi Sunak said there must be no return to "significant economic restrictions" despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, The Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
"I think we're just in a very different place to where we were a year ago because of the vaccine," he said in an interview. "There's this enormous wave of protection, and that changes things. That's our first line of defence."
The Times quoted Sunak as saying the economy was the priority.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a new COVID-19 lockdown was not on the cards after advisers warned that early action through lighter measures would reduce the need for tougher restrictions later.
COVID-19 cases in Britain are the highest in Europe and hit their most elevated levels in three months earlier this week. However, the rollout of vaccines has meant that deaths from the disease remain far below their levels at the start of this year.
(Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; writing by William Schomberg; editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O'Brien)