Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK is now facing a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. As a result, tougher restrictions on social life are being considered by officials in order to keep the country’s infection rate – or ‘R number’ – from rising too quickly.
However, Mr Johnson is understood to be eager to avoid a full second lockdown. He has previously said such a move would be a “disaster” for the UK’s economy.
This could prove a point of contention for Professor Whitty, sources inside the government have claimed.
One told the Daily Mail Professor Whitty’s concerns are purely medical and that he “doesn’t really consider economic factors.”
They added: “He is very well regarded and there is a fear that if the Government defied his instructions or advice, he would make that known.”
The Department of Health has called these claims “categorically not true.”
Other government sources told the paper frustrations lay in balancing economic concerns with public health. They said ministers in the Treasury are “tearing their hair out”.
One bitterly criticised the government’s health advisers, accusing them of driving “an enormous amount of panic.”
READ: Tory civil war: Boris Johnson faces uprising as fury erupts over new lockdown plans
The most recent rumours of concerns about a possible resignation by Professor Whitty are not the first.
At the start of this month, cabinet sources claimed they were concerned the health expert could quit if the government pushed too hard for offices to reopen.
According to the Telegraph, ministers fear this could damage public trust in the government.
The Department of Health again insisted the claims were not true, calling them a “complete invention”.
At the time, Mr Johnson was vocally advocating for a return to the office, celebrating the fact that “people are going back to the office in huge numbers across our country, and quite right too”.
He added the government was “absolutely confident” future outbreaks of COVID-19 would be dealt with.
Professor Whitty has said in the past he believes social distancing measures would have to stay in place for “a long period of time,” though he did not specify how long this might be.
Meanwhile, the government is considering measures such as banning mixing between households as well as reducing the opening hours of pubs.
Mr Johnson recently announced those who fail to self-isolate in England when required to do so would face fines of up to £10,000.