Boris Johnson has told MPs that “I rule out nothing” in the fight against coronavirus, but that he wants to “avoid the misery of another national lockdown”.
The prime minister defended his three-tier system of local COVID-19 restrictions during a tempestuous PMQs clash with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
It was their first encounter since Sir Keir came out in favour of a two to three-week “circuit breaker” coronavirus shutdown.
Noting that the government’s own scientific advisers had recommended such a course of action, the Labour leader asked: “Why did the prime minister reject that advice and abandon the science?”
Mr Johnson said he had been advised that a “regional approach” will “bring down the virus”.
Justifying his new stance, Sir Keir told the Commons he had “genuinely concluded” that a short lockdown was “in the national interest”.
“It is the failure of the prime minister’s strategy that means tougher measures are now unavoidable,” the Labour leader said, adding that the country was now at a “tipping point” and “time is running out”.
The PM said he wanted to “seize this moment now to avoid the misery of another national lockdown into which he [Sir Keir] wants to go head-long by delivering a regional solution”.
Mr Johnson added that “opportunism, I’m afraid, is the name of the game for the party opposite”, accusing the Labour leader of “supporting the government one day” and performing a “dramatic U-turn the next”.
“Everybody can see what he’s doing. Labour have said it themselves, they see this as a good crisis for the Labour Party and one they wish to exploit – we see this as a national crisis that we are going to turn around,” he said.
The PM added: “I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we’re going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented.”