June 24, 2020 / 11:28 AM / 17 days ago

British PM Johnson dismisses criticism on local lockdowns, coronavirus app

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dismissed criticism on Wednesday of his government’s plans to implement local lockdowns if there are flare-ups of the novel coronavirus and of an app to trace the spread of the virus.

At prime minister’s questions in parliament, the opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer suggested both systems were not yet ready before England eases its coronavirus lockdown from July 4.

In response, Johnson said: “We have a very effective cluster-busting operation which is designed to ensure that we keep those outbreaks under control.

“I am not going to pretend ... that this thing is beaten or that the virus has gone away ... We have to remain vigilant and local councils will be supported in doing their vital work in implementing local lockdowns,” he added, challenging Starmer to find any other country that has a functioning tracing app.

A spokesman for Starmer pointed to Germany, which has had a large number of people downloading its app, and a number of countries “which are far ahead of us in terms of developing their apps”, such as Singapore and South Korea.

“We’ve spent 12 million pounds on an app which hasn’t even been launched,” the spokesman told reporters. “I think it was another example of a dodgy answer from a prime minister who wasn’t on top of the detail.”

Reporting by Sarah Young and Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison

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