BORIS Johnson has been accused of telling aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than impose a second lockdown, in the latest allegation levelled at the Prime Minister.

He was reported on Monday night to have argued during a Government debate in September that lockdowns were “mad” as he raised concerns about the economic harm they cause.

Downing Street described the claims in the Times as “gross distortions” of Mr Johnson’s position, as he battled a bitter briefing war that has engulfed No 10.

Mr Johnson will tell the Cabinet on Tuesday that the Government must “stay totally focused on the public’s priorities, on fighting Covid, delivering vaccines and creating jobs as we proceed on the path back to normality”, according to reports.

The allegation surfaced after a growing number of sources were reported to have told how Mr Johnson said he was prepared to let “bodies pile high” rather than order a third shutdown.

The Prime Minister said that allegation was “total rubbish."

The decision on the second lockdown last autumn was leaked and is the subject of an inquiry to find the so-called “chatty rat” who tipped off the press.

Mr Case, the UK’s most senior civil servant, declined to say whether Mr Cummings had been cleared over that leak, as the former ally has claimed when striking back at allegations from within No 10.

In the latest criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis, the Times reported that Mr Johnson repeatedly said he would rather “let it rip” than impose the second lockdown because restrictions would close businesses and cause job losses.

A No 10 spokesman said: “These are gross distortions of his position. Throughout this pandemic we’ve done everything we can to save lives and protect livelihoods.”

Mr Johnson ultimately announced the second lockdown for England in October, but his alleged comments are the latest to rock Downing Street amid a briefing war.

The Prime Minister was earlier accused of saying he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third shutdown.

After the Daily Mail first reported the remarks, the BBC and ITV were among those to repeat the allegations, citing their own sources.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove defended Mr Johnson, telling the Commons it is “incredible” to think he would have made the remark.

Mr Gove said that “I was in that room, I never heard language of that kind”, in a defence stopping short of a full denial that the comments had been made.

ITV’s report suggested Mr Johnson made the remark in his study just after he agreed to the second lockdown.

The Prime Minister, who will address his Cabinet on Tuesday, denied making the comment.

“No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a Government is to make sure that the lockdowns work,” he told reporters in Wrexham.

“They have, and I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, really pulled together and, working with the vaccination programme, we have got the disease under control.”

Mr Case told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee it is “probable” that the culprit of the “chatty rat” leak will never be identified.