UK Politics: PM hopes local measures will prevent another national Covid lockdown

Johnson said local measures should prevent a national lockdown
The PM is keen to avoid another national lockdown

Boris Johnson has said he is keen to avoid another national lockdown as the country continues to battle coronavirus. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

[A national lockdown] 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."

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said he doesn't want to impose another national lockdown to prevent a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting local measures as the preferred option. However, he also stressed that nationwide action cannot be ruled out completely.

The prime minister told the Sunday Telegraph a return to the sort of restrictions imposed in March this year was akin to a "nuclear deterrent". He also expressed confidence the country would not find itself in that position again.

His comments came as Labour criticised the government's approach to lifting certain lockdown measures. The opposition party said Johnson had put parents in an "impossible position" by urging people to return to offices during the school summer holiday period.

The 'nuclear' option

The prime minister said the government's preferred approach to containing coronavirus is introducing restrictions at the local level when outbreaks occur in certain locations.

Councils across England have been given new powers to take actions like closing shops, cancelling events and shutting outdoor public spaces if they witness a sudden increase in confirmed cases of the virus.

At the Downing Street press briefing on Friday, Johnson said it makes sense to take local action in response to isolated outbreaks.

"There is no point shutting down a city in one part of the country to contain an outbreak in another part of the country," he added.

Discussing the prospect of another national lockdown, Johnson said he cannot entirely rule out that course of action "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," he added.

Furthermore, Johnson said experts were getting better at identifying and containing local outbreaks of Covid-19.

The Conservative leader also shared his hope that there would be a "significant return to normality" by Christmas, while outlining plans to further ease restrictions in England.

New guidelines will give people more freedom to use public transport, while employers will have more discretion to bring staff back into workplaces, if they consider it safe to do so, from 1 August.

'Penalising parents'

Labour leader Keir Starmer took issue with the government "urging a return to offices" over the summer holiday period, when many parents will struggle to access childcare, arrange activities for their children or book places on catch-up schemes.

Starmer, who will join the shadow education secretary Kate Green on a visit to a school in Coventry today (Monday July 20), said many parents received a "back-to-work notice" on Friday, just as the summer holidays started.

Labour said there is "widespread frustration" over the government's handling of education in particular. It cited a survey by Parentkind showing that seven out of ten parents think this issue has been managed poorly during the pandemic.

Starmer stressed that "we all want society to get moving again", but this requires "a clear plan and national leadership from the government".

"Despite ordering millions of parents back to the office, the prime minister has refused to provide any extra help for families, penalising parents by putting them in an impossible position," he added.

Vaccine and treatment progress

As work continues around the world to develop a Covid-19 vaccine - which is generally considered to be the only real solution to the pandemic - the UK government has signed deals for 90 million doses of the most promising candidates currently in development.

This is in addition to the 100 million doses of the potential vaccine currently being trialled by Oxford University in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, Southampton-based biotech firm Synairgen has developed a treatment which it claims is highly effective in reducing the number of coronavirus patients requiring intensive care.

These positive signals did little to buoy stock markets on Monday morning, however, with investors seemingly more concerned with slow progress in EU economic recovery talks and strained diplomatic relations between the UK and China.

The FTSE 100 dropped by just over 1% at the start of the trading session, while France's CAC 40 fell by 0.8% before regaining some ground during the morning.

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