UK Business Minister ‘Categorically’ Rules Out New COVID-19 Lockdown
13:09 GMT 20.10.2021 (Updated: 16:11 GMT 20.10.2021)
New coronavirus cases in the UK have sored in recent weeks and are now approaching 50,000 per day. But the daily death toll has remained steady at just over 100, giving ammunition to the government's claim to have "broken the link" between infections and fatalities through mass vaccination.
The UK's business minister has ruled out another COVID-19 lockdown after some public figures raised the alarm.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng gave an unequivocal response to LBC radio's Nick Ferrari on Wednesday morning.
“I categorically rule out, I don’t know where this language has come from," Kwarteng said.
"We’ve worked really hard to get to the point that we could actually open up the economy," he stressed. "We’ve got a fast growing economy, people getting back to work, getting back to normal life."
"I think any talk of lockdowns is just not at all helpful and it’s not going to happen," the cabinet minister added.
Public Health England said 223 coronavirus deaths were reported on Tuesday across the UK, following the typical weekend lull in reporting. But when sorted by date of death, fatalities spiked at 128 on October 14 — the most recent date when the full number is available — and just 823 patients with the virus are currently in intensive care on ventilators in National Health Service hospitals.
Kwarteng insisted the newly-approved scheme to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds would be a success despite getting off to a slow start.
"It is working but we just need a faster rollout," he said. "It's easy to say that things aren't working when they've just started or we need to push them more dynamically, but it is working."
And he admitted the numbers of already-vaccinated people coming forward for third booster jabs was low, saying that was "something that we really need to address".
18 October 2021, 19:04 GMT
On Tuesday evening Matthew Taylor, the head of the NHS Confederation — which represents the local and regional 'trusts' set up as part of the health service's marketisation — said the country was "right on the edge" of a crisis.
He warned "the most challenging winter on record" was coming and called on the public to "show extra support for the NHS" by "behaving in ways that will keep themselves and others safe" — a clear call to return to lockdown precautions.
“It is time for the Government to enact Plan B of its strategy without delay because without pre-emptive action, we risk stumbling into a winter crisis," Taylor said. "The Government should not wait for Covid infections to rocket and for NHS pressures to be sky high before the panic alarm is sounded."
Taylor has no experience in healthcare management, but is a former assistant general secretary of the opposition Labour Party.
He headed its Rapid Response and Rebuttal unit in 1994, before being promoted to coordinator of leader Tony Blair's the 1997 election campaign and director of policy. After heading the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank for five years, Blair hired him back on in 2003 as head of the Number 10 Policy Unit and later as his chief strategy advisor.