British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Wednesday resisted a call from his political opposition for a nationwide, temporary “circuit breaker” lockdown to halt the spread of COVID-19, but said he rules out nothing.
On Tuesday, Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, called for a three-week lockdown, based on advice from Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The organization said failing to do so would lead to “catastrophic consequences.”
Starmer said it was clear that Johnson’s regional approach to restrictions was not working.
Johnson told the members of Parliament that he would stick to his local and regional approach that was announced Monday, which uses a three-tier system that rates the level of COVID-19 cases in specific areas. Cities and towns with medium, high or very high alert ratings must implement restrictive measures accordingly.
Liverpool became the first area in the highest category, which requires bars, gyms and other businesses to close, perhaps for months.
In a heated exchange with Starmer, Johnson pointed out that the opposition leader supported the government’s approach as recently as Monday. Starmer replied that he had supported the government in all its measures to this point but thinks the circuit breaker lockdown is in the national interest.
British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told Parliament he believes a second national lockdown would carry heavy economic and social costs that could permanently damage the British economy.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland, which is outside the tier system, announced the toughest COVID-19 measures since the pre-summer peak, closing restaurants and suspending schools. Northern Ireland has the highest infection rates in Britain.