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Boris Johnson is 'reluctant to end lockdown over fears of a second wave of coronavirus infection

Mr Johnson recording a video message on Easter Sunday at Number 10 after his release from the hospital, before leaving for Chequers to recover from his illness

Boris Johnson is understood to be reluctant to ease the coronavirus lockdown over fears of a second wave of infections.

The prime minister has told colleagues his 'over-riding concern' is to avoid a second wave of the pandemic and a fresh spike in cases, according to the Times.

During a two-hour meeting on Friday with foreign secretary Dominic Raab, Dominic senior adviser Cummings, Lee Cain, director of communications and cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Mr Johnson was said to have outlined these concerns.

Mr Johnson seems to be taking a more cautious stance on when to begin reopening the economy than Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove who want to minimise the damage of the lockdown to businesses.

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, argued that before easing restrictions the government should try to suppress the virus for longer so its transmission rate becomes much lower.

Revelations of Mr Johnson's concerns come as it emerged pubs and restaurants could remain closed until the winter, as Mr Gove said hospitality would be 'among the last to exit the lockdown'.

A government source told the Times: 'The idea that we will be rushing to lift measures is a non-starter.

'If the transmission rate rises significantly we will have to do a harder lockdown again.'

Last week Gove and Sunak suggested that once the peak of the virus had passed and the transmission rate lowered, the government should 'run things quite hot' and ease restrictions.

The source added: 'It's a question of how comfortable you are with the virus circulating in the community.'

This come amid a growing row over the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak and claims Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings in the lead up to the pandemic

On Sunday a Sunday Times article claimed the Johnson administration 'just watched' as the death toll mounted in Wuhan during January and February.

A Whitehall source claimed the Government 'missed the boat on testing and PPE' (personal protective equipment) during a vital period before the outbreak took hold in Britain.

This evening, Number 10 accused the Sunday Times of 'falsehoods' and 'errors' in a six-page rebuttal of the article.

And while Mr Gove confirmed the report that the PM had not attended five meetings of the key Government committee Cobra in the run-up to the crisis, he insisted this was not unusual.

He confirmed the PM did not attend the meetings, but added: 'He didn't. But then he wouldn't. Because most Cobra meetings don't have the Prime Minister attending them.'

Number 10 also insisted Mr Johnson, who is currently recovering from coronavirus at Chequers after spending several nights in intensive care last week, 'has been at the helm' of the government's response to the crisis.

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Speaking yesterday, Mr Rove said the accusation the PM purposefully sidestepped these five meetings was 'grotesque'.

Gavin Williamson also insisted that Boris Johnson was 'driving' the government's coronavirus response despite 'skipping' five Cobra meetings at the start of the outbreak.

The Education Secretary defended the PM's handling amid a mounting backlash at the slow action in gearing up to the looming crisis.'

Mr Johnson has been accused of taking a backseat role in shoring up the nation's pandemic defences during January and February, despite mounting concern from scientists over the accelerating health emergency in Wuhan.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak wants to minimise the damage of the lockdown to businesses

Matt Hancock - Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

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My view: There is no need to rush to ease lockdown restrictions, until when scientific evidence shows it's safe to do so.

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