A government minister has dismissed suggestions the UK could be heading for a two-week national lockdown.
Edward Argar, a minister in the Department of Health and Social Care, rubbished claims that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being advised to take the action due to a rise in coronavirus infections.
He told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “It’s not something that I’ve heard about, I know there’s speculation in the press today.
“But it’s not something I’ve seen within the department.
“The prime minister has been very clear about this, he doesn’t want to see another national lockdown.
“He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work and get that infection rate down.”
Anthony Costello, a former director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the World Health Organisation (WHO), had claimed that England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was recommending the two-week lockdown.
He posted on Twitter on Wednesday night: “I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day.
“Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.”
But Mr Argar said: “We are guided by the science but we’re not necessarily guided by the speculation in the press.
“It’s not something I’ve heard from Chris. And it’s something the prime minister clearly doesn’t want to see.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister firmly dismissed the prospect of a second national lockdown and suggested the economic impact of such action would be “disastrous”.
“I don’t want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country,” he told a group of senior MPs.
“We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.
“Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
In a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to confirm new local lockdown measures for northeast England.
He is set to announce a ban in the region on socialising with people from different households, a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and curbs on travel.
Mr Argar told Sky News that northeast England was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in northwest England.
He said: “In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West.
“We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action.”
Mr Argar said, in northwest England, the rise in infections was due to people not adhering to social distancing rules with different households meeting up in close proximity.
He added: “Obviously a night-time economy can fuel that when people have been to the pub, people have been out late into the evening.
“That’s one of the ways in which that transmission can increase.”