Health minister Dorries forced to clarify lockdown comments after Twitter row

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.

"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."

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A stall holder in a protective face mask in Brixton Market in South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The government's message: 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives' is shown in lights on the rotating display near the top of the BT Tower in the Fitzrovia area of London as the UK continues in lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The scene in Cleethorpes as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Visitors to Greenwich Park in south east London take their daily exercise and photograph the cherry blossom in the Royal Park as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 16, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
A woman in a protective face mask walks through Brixton Market in South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A woman walks past NHS tributes which are painted on pillow cases attached to the fence at Elder Park in Glasgow as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A woman runs alone on Worthing beach in front of Worthing Pier to get her daily exercise and obey social distancing instructions as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A person walks past a boarded up Debenhams, Oxford Street, London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A large display thanking the NHS at Wandsworth roundabout as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A temporary morgue on Wanstead Flats in East London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man plays football in front of graffiti reading Stop 5G Paranoia on Wanstead Flats in East London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A view along Oxford Street, London, looking from Oxford Circus towards Centrepoint, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Head falconer Chris O'Donnell with a White-tailed Sea Eagle at Warwick Castle, Warwick, home to the UK's biggest birds of prey show. The castle's birds are unable to give their regular displays as the UK continues in lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
A Virgin Atlantic charter flight lands at Heathrow Airport, London, delivering vital medical supplies to UK from Shanghai. Itis one of eight cargo-only flights, in partnership with the Department of Health and the NHS, that Virgin Atlantic is operating during April.
Mounted police officers speak to people on Primrose Hill, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A Virgin Atlantic charter flight lands at Heathrow Airport, London, delivering vital medical supplies to UK from Shanghai. Itis one of eight cargo-only flights, in partnership with the Department of Health and the NHS, that Virgin Atlantic is operating during April.
Hand painted pictures of colourful rainbows are displayed on the door of a home in South London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
People wearing protective masks whilst shopping in South London as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Colourful signs in a shop window say 'stay home', 'protect the NHS' and 'save lives' as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A man walks past a 'we are closed' sign at Crabshack in Worthing as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Bobby (no surname given) feeding a peanut to a squirrel in St James's Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A boy on his BMX rides up a ramp as he gets his daily exercise in a skatepark while the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Police monitor people on the Long Walk in Windsor, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Two people practice social distancing while talking to each other sitting on benches in Clevedon on Easter Bank Holiday Monday at midday, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A deserted M5 motorway near Clevedon on Easter Bank Holiday Monday at midday, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
EDITORS NOTE: NUMBER PLATES PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK Picture taken at 08:50 at a drive-in Covid-19 testing centre at Leeds Temple Green Park and Ride, part of the Government's UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS workers.
Members of the public in the Meadows in Edinburgh as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Cones and beach detritus block the entrance to a car parking section of beach around midday on Easter Sunday at Weston-super-Mare as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A woman prays at the closed doors of Westminster Cathedral ahead of the Easter morning mass, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Churches across the country have been continuing to broadcast services digitally in the lead-up to Easter, with more than 1,000 livestreams taking place on a regular basis.
A woman prays at the closed doors of Westminster Cathedral ahead of the Easter morning mass, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Churches across the country have been continuing to broadcast services digitally in the lead-up to Easter, with more than 1,000 livestreams taking place on a regular basis.
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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'."

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".

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."

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.

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