Coronavirus: Government dismisses claims of fresh two-week national lockdown | UK News

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.

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A deserted Piccadilly Circus in London during the UK’s lockdown in April

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.”

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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.”

The government has said it will now prioritise COVID-19 tests for some groups after it admitted fixing issues with the system could take a matter of weeks.

Mr Johnson has pointed to a “colossal spike” in demand for tests as being to blame for shortages in some areas.

On Wednesday, there were 3,991 new confirmed cases of coronavirus.

PM: We don’t have enough testing capacity

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.”

Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed accused the government of having failed to prepare for the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Now that we’ve got more people going out and about as the economy opens, people are being encouraged to go back to work, children are going to school, young people are going to university, the risk of infections spreading is greater,” he told Sky News.

“But we don’t have the test, track and trace system that could keep everybody safe.

“So we risk further local or even national lockdowns. The fault of this has to be laid squarely at the feet of the government.”

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Traficom announces two-week suspension of flights between Turku and Skopje

FLIGHTS BETWEEN Turku and Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, will be suspended for two weeks as of Friday, 28 August, per a decision by the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom).

The once-weekly flights will not be operated between today and 10 September.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) estimated in a statement requested by the agency that suspending the flights temporarily would be a proportionate measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in Finland.

THL stated that tests and other measures suggest an unusually high number of people who could spread the virus have been on the flights and that the decision to order all passengers into quarantine was justified.

“The requirement that passengers must get tested in advance has reduced the infection risk posed to other passengers, but there is not yet enough evidence of the implementation and effectiveness of advance testing,” stated Traficom.

Due to the incomplete coverage of tests conducted on passengers upon their arrival and the difficulty of making sure passengers observe the two-week quarantine in Finland, THL reminded that the possibility remains that the continuing the flights poses a risk of the virus spreading in the population in spite of the current measures.

The decision was made on grounds of sections in the aviation act enabling authorities to prohibit or limit air traffic in order to solve sudden and short-term problems caused by unpredictable and unavoidable circumstances.

Entry restrictions amended, rules for restaurants extended

The Finnish government yesterday amended the restrictions on entries across the external border by prohibiting entry for wild-berry pickers from third countries that are subject to entry restrictions adopted due to the coronavirus epidemic. The entry prohibition will enter into force on Friday, 28 August.

The decision has no impact on the possibility of berry pickers from Thailand to travel to Finland, as no entry restrictions are currently imposed on residents of Thailand.

The government also announced the extension of its restrictions on bars, cafés and restaurants until the end of September. Such establishments will thus remain obliged to make sure patrons have their own seat, the possibility to wash their hands, do not come into unnecessary close contact with others, and keep their facilities and surfaces clean.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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Melbourne Rebels fly early to Canberra, face two-week stint away from home

But with their round two game still potentially facing a move to Queensland, the Rebels needed to be outside of Victoria for 14 days so they will stay in Canberra while plans are finalised.

The Rebels planned to play the Reds behind closed doors at AAMI Park, but that is now almost certain to change with Canberra, Sydney and Queensland all raised as potential locations for the game.

The Rebels understand they will need to be flexible with fixturing this season but they remain hopeful they may be able to host home games, either with or without crowds, later in the 10-week regular season.

They have a bye in round three before playing New South Wales Waratahs on July 24 in what was hoped to be a home game.

Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson admitted it had been a challenging week for the club as they worked with Rugby Australia, SANZAAR, the Rugby Union Players’ Association and various state governments.

“We have been able to get some pretty quick solutions and outcomes,” Stephenson said.

“We have all the facilities we need in Canberra and had an offer from the Brumbies to help us out with anything we need so, by and large, the guys will have a good week of preparation next week.”

Much like their neighbours NRL club Melbourne Storm, the Rebels expect they will be away from home for the next two weeks then with a bye in round three hope they will be able to come back to Melbourne.

“We are working with this two-week cycle and given how much things have moved this week it is hard to predict what will happen in one or two weeks time,” Stephenson said.

“We are all hopeful things will move in the right direction and restrictions will be lifted but it’s not going to happen overnight.

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