Johnson Vows No Second Lockdown, Asks Cabinet Back to Work

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked his cabinet to return to the office next week and suggested he won’t impose another lockdown on the country, potentially setting his government up for further discord with its scientific advisers.

Johnson summoned his cabinet to meet in-person the first time since March, the Mail reported on Sunday, citing an unidentified person in Johnson’s office. He wants the government to set an example for the country to return back to office, the Mail said. The 26-member team will meet in a large Foreign Office stateroom normally used for meetings with foreign leaders, in order to have space for social distancing.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Johnson said he “certainly” doesn’t want another blanket shutdown and nor does he think “we will be in that position again.” The prime minister said the country is getting better at spotting the disease and isolating it locally, and compared a second nationwide lockdown as a tool similar to a “nuclear deterrent” -- a method of last resort.

Johnson’s plan contracts with the cautionary words by Patrick Vallance, the nation’s chief scientific adviser, who sees “absolutely no reason” to change the guidance for people to work from home if they can. Vallance floated the idea of another national lockdown on Friday, saying that the challenges in winter will be greater and could “need national measures as well.”

The U.K. is trying to emerge from a lockdown that has led to the economy shrinking a fifth in the three months through April. The government is trying to revive struggling shops and restaurants to avoid an expected wave of job cuts. A similar dynamics is being played out across the Atlantic -- the Trump administration is prodding for the reopening of economy and schools, at times undermining the advice of top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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