Coronavirus: PM to chair emergency COBRA meeting tomorrow ahead of statement on pandemic

September 21, 2020

Boris Johnson will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Tuesday ahead of a statement on the next steps in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes on a day when the prime minister will also chair cabinet - and it is expected he will announce new measures designed to curb the number of COVID-19 infections.

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Ahead of this, Mr Johnson on Monday discussed the coronavirus response during calls with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster, and Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

"During these calls, the prime minister made clear that the rising infection rates are a cause for great concern, which he is taking very seriously," a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"He reiterated his unwavering commitment to working with the devolved administrations as we continue to tackle the virus.

"They all agreed to act with a united approach, as much as possible, in the days and weeks ahead."

Earlier on Monday, the government's chief scientific adviser told a Downing Street briefing that the UK could soon see 49,000 new cases every day unless action is taken to drive down the current rate of infection.

Mr Johnson has said he does not want to put the country into a second national lockdown - but it is understood that Downing Street is looking at introducing temporary nationwide restrictions to try and "short-circuit" the virus.

Government figures have stressed the plans being drawn up stop short of the full national lockdown that was introduced back in March.

Proposals being worked up could see essential travel to schools and workplaces continuing, but restaurants and bars shut - or perhaps operating on restricted hours - with different households told not to mix at all.

The restrictions could be put in place for two weeks, but the timing and duration of the measures has yet to be finalised.

There has been speculation of such a lockdown taking place around the time of school half term in October.

Mr Johnson and senior ministers were briefed by England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief economic adviser at the Treasury Clare Lombardelli at the weekend.

"The PM has been engaged with the cabinet throughout this process. The cabinet received a detailed briefing from the government's chief medical, scientific and economic advisers over the course of the weekend," his spokesman said.

"The PM will work with his colleagues to ensure that we respond in the most effective way to try to control the spread of the virus and to save lives."

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