Health minister Nadine Dorries sought to clarify her suggestion that the “full lockdown” to tackle coronavirus can only be lifted once a vaccine is developed by insisting there could still be relaxation of the social-distancing measures.
Her comments – which have caused confusion and led to an online spat with senior journalists – appeared to suggest that restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19 could be in place for well over a year, as experts have said it could be 18 months before a vaccine is ready.
Ms Dorries triggered the row by saying journalists should stop asking about an “exit strategy” from the lockdown.
Journalists should stop asking about an âexit strategy.â There is only one way we can âexitâ full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine. Until then, we need to find ways we can adapt society and strike a balance between the health of the nation and our economy . #COVID19— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) April 15, 2020
“There is only one way we can ‘exit’ full lockdown and that is when we have a vaccine,” she said.
“Until then, we need to find ways we can adapt society and strike a balance between the health of the nation and our economy.”
She rounded on broadcaster Piers Morgan, who said her suggestion the UK would be in “full lockdown” until a vaccine was developed was an “astonishing break” from official Government statements.
Ms Dorries accused the Good Morning Britain presenter of a “ridiculous interpretation” of her words, adding “it would be more helpful to talk about ‘relaxing lockdown’ than constantly demanding an ‘exit strategy’.”
No I havenât Piers! What a ridiculous interpretation.— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) April 15, 2020
I said society needs to adapt.
It would be more helpful to talk about ârelaxing lockdownâ than constantly demanding an âexit strategy.â My point being, some of you guys need to start asking more intelligent questions. https://t.co/9DabOBri0H
She later added “there is more than one lockdown”. That could be “full, or the introduction of a relaxation/easement strategy – eventually (leading) to a full exit”.
There is more than one lockdown. Full, or the introduction of a relaxation/easement strategy - eventually â¡ï¸ to a full exit.— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) April 16, 2020
You were the one demanding a full lockdown. You have a responsibility to talk rationally about the consequences and a realistic way out. https://t.co/xvvIL3BCxg
As Sky News presenter Kay Burley suggested that Ms Dorries “misspoke”, the minister said: “I say it as it is.
“I speak in politics as I do in life. If I need to apologise, I won’t hesitate.”
But she added: “I really did not misspeak.”
I say it as it is. I speak in politics as I do in life. If I need to apologise, I wonât hesitate. Best thing here, is for me to refer back to this tweet, at the right point down the line. I really did not misspeak. Please see my last tweet for clarity for those who need it. https://t.co/SnbRUmoKRn— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) April 16, 2020
Ms Dorries, who contracted Covid-19 and subsequently recovered, is a bestselling author of fiction.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the row triggered by Ms Dorries’ comments showed the need for greater clarity from the Government.
“This is the problem, isn’t it, because if the Government don’t provide clarity then people can read things into misleading or badly phrased tweets by junior health ministers,” he told Sky News.