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Tue, 20 October 2020

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson rules out second national lockdown comparing measure to 'nuclear deterrent'

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson rules out second national lockdown comparing measure to 'nuclear deterrent'

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street (Credit: PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has effectively ruled out implementing another national lockdown if the number of coronavirus cases begins to climb again, comparing the measure to a "nuclear deterrent".

In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister said he hoped to rely on the extra powers handed to councils to implement local shutdowns in areas where the virus may begin to flourish again.

Asked if he was taking a similar approach to France in ruling out national measures, Mr Johnson said: "Yes. I mean, look, I can't abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent.

"But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don't want to use it.  And nor do I think we will be in that position again.

"It's not just that we're getting much better at spotting the disease and isolating it locally, but we understand far more which groups it affects, how it works, how it's transmitted, so the possibility of different types of segmentation, of enhanced shielding for particular groups, is now there."

His comments come just days after the Office for Budget Responsibility revised its estimate of the cost of the coronavirus crisis to £192billon, while predicting the biggest drop in GDP in 300 years.

Annnouncing the latest relaxation in lockdown rules on Friday, the PM said he hoped the Government's Covid-19 "roadmap" would allow the UK to have a "significant return to normality" by November.

He also said employers could decide whether to bring employees back into their workplaces if they were made safe - despite the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, reminding MPs that social distancing remained vital.

"Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option, because it's easy to do," he told the Science and Technology select committee last week. 

Mr Johnson used his Downing Street press conference the following day to say: “Obviously it's not for government to decide how employers should run their companies and whether they want their workforces in the office or not — that's very much for companies.

“And what we're saying now is that if employers think it'd be better, more productive for their employees to come into the office, and they can work in a safe way, in a Covid-secure way in the office, then there should be discussions between the employers and employees.

"And people should take a decision.”

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reports the Prime Minister has ordered members of the Cabinet to stop working from home "to set an example to the nation".

A special "giant" table has been set up to accommodate the first full in-person meeting since March, the paper says, with a Number 10 source confirming Mr Johnson wanted to "send a message" that his Government were "practising what they preached".

He is said to have told colleagues at the end of last week's meeting that it would be the last one to be held virtually and it had been "too long" since they had seen each other.

And while suggesting people should return to their workplaces from 1 August, he signalled that he wants government officials in Whitehall to lead the way with the back-to-work push.

The PM told the press conference: “I certainly want to be seeing people coming back into the civil service here in London, where employers think it's time to come back and it can be done in a safe way.”

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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