October 20, 2020

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson fears second peak from relaxing lockdown

Boris Johnson has told colleagues his concerns that relaxing lockdown measures too soon could lead to a second outbreak of coronavirus.

The PM is understood to have had a video call with his deputy, Dominic Raab, on Friday to discuss the crisis.

He is thought to have told Mr Raab and other officials that stopping a second peak was his priority.

It comes after criticism Mr Johnson did not chair or attend five early meetings about the virus.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove confirmed on Sunday that the PM had not been involved in the government’s emergency Cobra meetings – as reported in the Sunday Times.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused Mr Johnson of being “missing in action” at the start of the crisis.

But a government spokesman said it was “entirely normal and proper” for Cobra to be chaired by the relevant secretary of state rather than the prime minister.

They added Boris Johnson “has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also defended his boss, saying the PM was “being briefed on an hourly and daily basis” and “took a very close personal interest” in the virus early on.

‘Constructive’ meetings
The PM is currently staying at Chequers – the country retreat of the prime minister – while he recovers from coronavirus, and is not officially back at work yet.

But his official spokesman said Mr Johnson was receiving daily written updates on the government’s response to the crisis.

He also confirmed the prime minister had met some of his team from No 10 at Chequers.

Mr Raab – who is deputising for the prime minister during his recuperation – held another virtual meeting with leaders of the opposition parties to update them on the government’s handling of the outbreak.

But a senior source from one of the parties said the call was a “total waste of time” and a “tick-box exercise.”

A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the meeting had been “constructive” and he “reiterated his support for the government’s decision to extend the lockdown”.

But he said Sir Keir repeated calls for more detail on the exit strategy for ending the measures and “raised his concerns” about the availability of PPE.

Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts said all four UK governments must agree “how and when” the lockdown is lifted.

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