Zahawi squirms as BBC host slams new COVID-19 restrictions delay: ‘Why make us wait?’

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Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted he would not speculate on leaks suggesting the Government is preparing to introduce further restrictions in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Mr Zahawi insisted the UK remains focused on localised lockdowns and is hoping to avoid reimposing a complete shutdown in the coming months. But BBC Breakfast host Rachel Burden pointed out the measures have so far failed to work as she challenged the Tory MP on the delayed introduction of new restrictions.

Ms Burden said: “Local lockdowns are not working. You said yourself the rise in the number of cases trebled in the last two weeks.

“Hospitalisations have doubled in the last two weeks. Many areas are wondering why on earth they’re being lifted out of these kind of restrictions.

“Or indeed, some areas wondering when they’re going to be put into it. You said you’re working with local leaders in Nottingham, where leaders there and public health have said we need new measures right now.

‘Why are we having to wait?”

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Mr Zahawi insisted the Government is in constant touch with local authorities to ensure “we get this right” and avoid further clusters.

He said: “The slide Chris Whitty shared with colleagues exactly speaks to what you’ve just outlined, that the virus in places like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle is hitting that 500 per 100,000 per capita rate which is worrying, hence why we introduced the measures.”

Ms Burden however intervened: “Forgive me for interrupting but you keep saying you are working with local teams but they keep telling us, the leaders consistently tell us in these areas, you’re not working with them. They’re not being consulted, they’re not being advised.

“In Nottingham, there’s been a clear call from leaders there for measures to be introduced, and it hasn’t happened. They are at a loss as to why they are now the place with the highest number of infections in the country and nothing is being done.”

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Mr Zadawi dismissed attempts to turn the coronavirus crisis political as he renewed the Government’s commitment to work alongside local officials to ensure the virus is contained.

He said: “I can tell you, because I’m in the meetings of the Local Action Committee, we absolutely are working with the local leaders, with public health local teams.

“Some politicians are clearly unhappy, and I hope we can continue to work together, set aside our political differences.

“I wouldn’t like to be in a place as one of Keir Starmer’s ministers saying not to let a good crisis go to waste.

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“I think that’s a terrible way to behave, and heartbreaking because this is the time to come together.”

The Business Minister added: “And we’ve done with the devolved administrations as well, to work together to control the virus.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. Wherever we need to act, we will and we will announce it in the correct wait rather than comment on speculation by the media.”

The UK experienced a 56 percent rise in new infections over the past week.

Boris Johnson is believed to be considering the introduction of new restrictions on hospitality businesses after the latest data suggested 1/3 of new infections was picked up in pubs or restaurants.

Nicola Sturgeon ordered the closure of licenced establishments for 16 days from Friday as well as a strict 6pm-6am curfew.

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