Boris Johnson is reluctant to end lockdown over fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections - WORLD IN FOCUS

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Sunday, 19 April 2020

Boris Johnson is reluctant to end lockdown over fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections

Boris Johnson is 'reluctant to end lockdown over fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections' - despite lowest daily death toll for two weeks - but Sunak and Gove want to 'run hot' and ease restrictions sooner.

Boris Johnson is understood to be reluctant to ease the coronavirus lockdown over fears of a second wave of infections.
The prime minister has told colleagues his 'over-riding concern' is to avoid a second wave of the pandemic and a fresh spike in cases, according to the Times.
During a two-hour meeting on Friday with foreign secretary Dominic Raab, Dominic senior adviser Cummings, Lee Cain, director of communications and cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Mr Johnson was said to have outlined these concerns. 
Mr Johnson seems to be taking a more cautious stance on when to begin reopening the economy than Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove who want to minimise the damage of the lockdown to businesses.
Mr Johnson recording a video message on Easter Sunday at Number 10 after his release from the hospital, before leaving for Chequers to recover from his illness
Revelations of Mr Johnson's concerns come as it emerged pubs and restaurants could remain closed until the winter, as Mr Gove said hospitality would be 'among the last to exit the lockdown'.
A government source told the Times: 'The idea that we will be rushing to lift measures is a non-starter. 
'If the transmission rate rises significantly we will have to do a harder lockdown again.'  
Last week Gove and Sunak suggested that once the peak of the virus had passed and the transmission rate lowered, the government should 'run things quite hot' and ease restrictions. 
The source added: 'It's a question of how comfortable you are with the virus circulating in the community.' 
The come amid a growing row over the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak and claims Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings in the lead up to the pandemic 
On Sunday a Sunday Times article claimed the Johnson administration 'just watched' as the death toll mounted in Wuhan during January and February.
A Whitehall source claimed the Government 'missed the boat on testing and PPE' (personal protective equipment) during a vital period before the outbreak took hold in Britain.
This evening, Number 10 accused the Sunday Times of 'falsehoods' and 'errors' in a six-page rebuttal of the article. 
And while Mr Gove confirmed the report that the PM had not attended five meetings of the key Government committee Cobra in the run-up to the crisis, he insisted this was not unusual. 
He confirmed the PM did not attend the meetings, but added: 'He didn't. But then he wouldn't. Because most Cobra meetings don't have the Prime Minister attending them.' 
Number 10 also insisted Mr Johnson, who is currently recovering from coronavirus at Chequers after spending several nights in intensive care last week, 'has been at the helm' of the government's response to the crisis. 
Speaking yesterday, Mr Gove said the accusation the PM purposefully sidestepped these five meetings was 'grotesque'. 
Gavin Williamson also insisted that Boris Johnson was 'driving' the government's coronavirus response despite 'skipping' five Cobra meetings at the start of the outbreak. 
The Education Secretary defended the PM's handling amid a mounting backlash at the slow action in gearing up to the looming crisis.
Mr Johnson has been accused of taking a backseat role in shoring up the nation's pandemic defences during January and February, despite mounting concern from scientists over the accelerating health emergency in Wuhan. 
A senior Downing Street adviser told the investigation that Mr Johnson's decision to take 'country breaks' underscored his lack of urgency in the early stages of coronavirus planning. 
As his more junior colleagues took the reins on virus mitigation, Mr Johnson's personal life reportedly commanded his attention, namely how to break the news of Carrie Symonds' pregnancy to his family.
The insider also alleged that Whitehall had been fixated on Brexit, and long-term crisis preparations fell by the wayside as key staff were diverted from pandemic contingencies to thrash out no-deal planning.  
It also emerged the government shipped 260,000 items of personal protective equipment to China amid warning sirens from doctors that the UK was woefully under-prepared to cope with a pandemic. 
Former chief government science adviser David King told Sky News yesterday that he could not recall a Cobra meeting during his time in Whitehall that was not chaired by Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. 
But asked at the daily No10 press briefing about Mr Johnson's absence from Cobra meetings until the beginning of March, Mr Williamson said: 'The Prime Minister from the moment that it became clear that there were challenges in terms of coronavirus developing in China has absolutely been leading our nation's effort to combat the coronavirus, making sure that resources or money is not a concern for any department, especially the health service.'
He added that 'many Cobra meetings' are led by the departmental minister.
He said: 'The focus the Prime Minister was putting on this and has continued to put on this has meant that this is the whole Government effort.'  
Mr Gove, who is part of the so-called 'quad' of ministers steering the government's response while the PM recovers from his own battle with the disease, this morning called the allegations 'off-beam'. 
Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge, the minister for the cabinet office said: 'There are one or two aspects of the Sunday Times report that are slightly off-beam.' 
He confirmed the PM did not attend the Cobra meetings, but added: 'He didn't. But then he wouldn't. Because most Cobra meetings don't have the Prime Minister attending them. 
His remarks were scorned by Labour's Jon Ashworth, who branded them 'possibly the weakest rebuttal of a detailed expose in British political history.'
It also emerged today that the government shipped 260,000 items of personal protective equipment to China amid warning sirens from doctors that the UK was woefully under-prepared to cope with a pandemic. 
Medial care staff have expressed alarm as surgeons are being advised 'not to risk their health' by working without adequate PPE amid fears that hospitals could run out of supplies. 
Mr Sunak is also facing mounting pressure to boost his business bailout so that the Government increases its guarantee on loans to struggling firms to 100 per cent. 
The Treasury will today announce a further £1.25billion package to support innovative firms hit as the virus lockdown causes the economy to stutter to a halt.
It will include a £500million loans fund for high-growth companies and £750million in loans and grants for small firms focused on research and development. 

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