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A former World Health Organisation expert has backtracked on claims that the UK’s Chief Medical officer was encouraging Boris Johnson to introduce a two-week national lockdown.

Anthony Costello, professor of global health and sustainable development at University College London, said on Wednesday that Chris Whitty now supported blanket coronavirus restrictions.

He tweeted: “I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day. Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.”

His comments prompted widespread media reports about another national lockdown being on the cards despite Mr Johnson insisting he is doing “everything in my power” to prevent one.

But on Thursday morning, Mr Costello rescinded his claim, saying another insider had told him that Mr Whitty did not support such plans.

He said: “I’ve been told by another insider I respect that Chris Whitty does not support a 2 week lockdown, so I’m pleased to correct the record.”

Earlier this morning, health minister Edward Argar had been asked about the reports and dismissed the suggestion , telling Sky News: “It is not something I have seen within the department.

“The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown.

Former WHO director Anthony Costello (PA)

“He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.”

Mr Argar said the Government believes the rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures as long as people adhere to the measures in place.

Health minister Edward Argar dismisses claims of a two week national lockdown

Asked about whether he could rule out another national lockdown, he told BBC Breakfast: “The key to making sure that doesn’t happen is people adhering to the rule of the six, adhering to the regulations.

“I know it’s tough. This has been an incredibly tough year for everyone with huge sacrifices made by individuals, by businesses, by families.

“And the message is very clear. If we stick to that, if we stick to the hands, space and face guidance, we can avoid further national restrictions.”

It comes as cases have been rising over the last month with the UK recording nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of May.

Further lockdowns are now expected to be announced in North East England.

Mr Argar said the region was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.

“In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action,” he said.

Mr Argar said that in the North West, the rise had been driven in part by people not adhering to the social distancing requirements.