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Boris Johnson defends regional lockdown plan

Boris Johnson sounded defiance on his local 'Tiers' lockdown plan today despite warnings from scientists it is the 'worst of all worlds'.

In brutal clashes at PMQs, Mr Johnson dismissed calls from Sir Keir Starmer and SAGE for a 'miserable' national 'circuit breaker'.

He insisted that his job was to balance the economic and wider interests of the country with the science. 'The advice that I have today is that if you do the regional approach ... we can bring down the R. We can bring down the virus.' 

The premier accused Labour of 'opportunism' for coming out in favour of the move, despite previously endorsing local crackdowns. But Sir Keir shot back: 'We're at a tipping point. Time is running out.' 

The vicious exchanges came as Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham lined up behind a 'circuit breaker' as a way to avoid being plunged into harsh 'Tier Three' restrictions without wider support. 

But Tory MPs and Cabinet ministers vented fury at SAGE - despite claims that behind the scenes the PM is seriously considering the option at school half-term and him saying this afternoon that he 'rules nothing out'.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned of an 'economic emergency' saying a second national lockdown would be a 'dramatic' measure and create 'significant damage' to people's lives. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey flatly denied that new nationwide measures were on the cards before the end of the month.

The PM is being assailed on both sides by 'hawks' and 'doves' in his own top team, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock engaged in angry exchanges with rebels in the Commons last night. 

Two senior SAGE experts have produced estimates that a short sharp shock lockdown from October 24 could reduce deaths by between 3,000 and 107,000. Another, Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, slammed Mr Johnson for achieving the 'worst of all worlds'.  

There are mounting signs of anxiety within Downing Street about its approach, after it emerged publicly that the PM has been defying his scientific advice for weeks.

Rumours were swirling today that Mr Johnson is seriously considering a 'circuit breaker'. Some schools, including most private schools, have their half-term next week, while others are the following week. One source told the Telegraph the PM is 80 per cent likely to order the closure of pubs, restaurants and some other firms.

Northern Ireland is set for a period of intensified coronavirus restrictions after executive ministers agreed to closures of schools, pubs and restaurants for four weeks. A form of 'circuit breaker' is already in place in Scotland, and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said today that he is leaning towards imposing one. 

Graham Medley (top) from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and Matt Keeling (pictured below) from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling are suggesting the shutdown over half-term

Boris Johnson pictured with Rishi Sunak yesterday

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