PM Rejects Labour’s ‘Circuit-Breaker’ Call but Rules Out Nothing

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Oct. 14 rejected Labour’s call for an immediate 2-to-3-week-long national lockdown, but said he would “rule out nothing” for the future.

During the prime minister’s Q&A time in Parliament, Labour leader Keir Starmer said he didn’t think the government’s three-tiered CCP virus alert system “goes far enough,” and asked Johnson why he rejected the “circuit-breaker” approach—short national lockdowns each lasting 2 to 3 weeks—which the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had listed as one of the non-pharmaceutical interventions that it said “should be considered for immediate introduction,” on Sept. 21.

UK Labour Keir Starmer
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer leaves his home in London on April 22, 2020. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“Why did the prime minister reject that advice and abandon the science?” Starmer asked.

Johnson responded by reminding Starmer that the SAGE document (pdf) also said that “all the interventions considered have associated costs in terms of health and wellbeing, and that policymakers will need to consider analyses of economic impact and associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment.”

The prime minister said he adopted the three-tiered approach because “the disease is appearing much more strongly in some parts of the country than in others.”

But he also said he would “rule out nothing” in combating the virus.

In his speech the previous day, Starmer launched a series of criticisms against the Conservative government.

“Three things are now clear,” the Labour leader said. “The Government has not got a credible plan to slow infections. It has lost control of the virus. And it’s no longer following the scientific advice.”

He called for circuit-breaker lockdown, possibly during schools’ half term break.

Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on Oct. 22, 2019. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith called the speech “naked political posturing” and said the short lockdowns are more of a “business-breaker” than “circuit-breaker.”

“When people talk about a two-week lockdown, they should go back to March and remember what was promised then. Not much more than a month,” Duncan Smith told talkRADIO.

“We ended up with months of absolutely no business being able to operate, the Exchequer having to pile money out the door at a rate which has never been seen since we were at war in the second world war.

“All of these things cause huge consequences. So the idea of a casual ‘Let’s have a circuit-breaker over the half term’ as though this is going to make a short sharp difference—it’s not going to.”

Duncan Smith, however, doesn’t agree with the government’s approach either. He had said he preferred the “focused protection” plan laid out by three epidemiologists in The Great Barrington Declaration, which co-author Sunetra Gupta said consists of “shielding the vulnerable … while allowing those who are not vulnerable to this disease to go out there and get infected, and build up … herd immunity.”

Duncan Smith also proposed in Parliament, and said he would do so again, that the government should look at the effect of antivirals in reducing the death rate of CCP virus patients.