Dominic Raab has blasted a Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenter for "ranting" at him over an error he appeared to make on the Covid figures in the UK relating to the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The deputy prime minister, speaking to broadcasters after the UK recorded its first Omicron death, earlier mistakenly told Sky News there were 250 people in hospital with the variant but then later told BBC there were nine people in hospital.
GMB presenter Adil Ray, referenced the senior minister's incorrect figures, before hitting out: "If you don't know the actual basics, how can we respond to it?
"Do you want to give us a figure?" he asked, "you've got a third opportunity to tell us now".
Mr Raab gave the correct figure of 10 patients in hospital with Omicron, before firing back: "I understand you like ranting at your politicians in the morning, but can I answer the question because it's a fair challenge and I want to answer it."
He explained his earlier error, saying he had misheard a question, adding: "The figures are one death from Omicron, 10 in hospital, and the latest daily hospitalisations run at 900."
The UK's total Covid death toll, since the pandemic began, is 172,695 according to the Office for National Statistics, which collates its figures in a different way to the government.
The ONS notes any fatality where Covid is mentioned on the death certificate as being coronavirus related, however the government only counts deaths which occurred 28 days after a positive tests, and puts the UK total at 146,477.
While scientists have confirmed Omicron is much more transmissible than other variants, it is still unclear whether it is anymore dangerous and the South African doctor who first discovered it says it is likely to only cause mild disease.
Coronavirus fatalities in the UK have actually fallen for the third week in a row, amid the variant's rise, with 792 deaths registered in the week to December 3 - a fall of 6.8% on the previous week.
Asked whether the first Omicron death was caused by the variant or something else, Mr Raab said it's been a "challenge to demonstrate the primary cause of death" and suggested its possible the patient succumbed to a number of conditions.
He said the plan to keep deaths down has two strands; first, the booster jab campaign, which opens for all eligible over-18s to book an appointment online from tomorrow.
Lengthy queues were already developing for booster vaccinations in England on Tuesday morning after people waited up to five hours for a jab on Monday.
The other strategy is to use Plan B coronavirus restrictions, such as the wearing of face masks in most indoor locations, the guidance to work from home, and finally the controversial scheme requiring large venues to get proof of Covid status before allowing someone to enter.
The final measure, which has come in for intense scrutiny, is set to be rejected by dozens of Tory MPs in a vote this afternoon.
More than 70 backbenchers are threatening to oppose the government's Plan B for England, and it is reported that up to 10 ministerial aides could resign to vote against the controls.
The measures are widely expected to pass the House of Commons, however, with the government relying on Labour, which backs to restrictions, to vote them through.
Many particularly oppose the requirement for Covid passes – showing full vaccination or a recent negative test for the virus – as a serious infringement of people’s civil liberties.
There is also concern at the economic impact of a return of the working from home guidance on town and city centre businesses at a crucial time of the year if people again stay away from their offices.
Mr Johnson has insisted the measures represent a “balanced and proportionate” response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
In the Commons on Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency estimated there were 200,000 infections a day, with the new strain accounting for 20% of cases in England, and set to become dominant in London.
He said "some urgent appointments at elective surgeries may be postponed" as health workers focus on reaching the target of administering a million vaccine doses a day.
People have been encouraged to test themselves before meeting people in order to reduce the new variant's impact.
But lateral flow tests were unavailable to be ordered via the government website, for the second day running. A message on the site on Tuesday morning said there were no tests available for home delivery, although tests can still be collected from pharmacies. On Monday, the UK Health Security Agency said that “due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders”.