Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says ‘we get things wrong’ but worst will be over by ‘middle of next year’
The prime minister has warned of “tough times ahead”, although is optimistic the country can “bounce back stronger than ever”.
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Boris Johnson has admitted the government has got some things wrong during the pandemic, but expects the worst of it will be over “by the middle of next year”.
“Of course… there are things we get wrong and we’re learning the whole time,” he told Sky News’ deputy political editor Sam Coates.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes as fast as possible and that’s what we’re doing.”
Speaking on his first anniversary as prime minister, Mr Johnson said he expects Britain will be “well on the way past” COVID-19 by the middle of next year, although warned of “tough times ahead”.
“But I’ve absolutely no doubt that we are going to [keep the virus under control] and this country is going to bounce back stronger than ever before,” he said.
More than 40,000 people in the UK have died with coronavirus, making it one of the worst-hit countries in the world.
A further 123 people have died with coronavirus in Britain as of 5pm on Thursday, according to government figures.
Although the lockdown has gradually eased, a number of social distancing measures are still in place – and people are wondering when they will be able to hug friends and family again.
“I’m not going to make a prediction about when these various social distancing measures will come off,” Mr Johnson said.
“Obviously we have been able to reduce some of them. We no longer ask people to stay at home, we’re trying to get back much closer to normal, but our ability to dispense with the social distancing measures will depend on our continued ability to drive down the virus.”
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Asked whether people should be “shamed” for not complying with social distancing measures, the prime minister replied: “I think we should rely on the massive common sense of the British people that have so far delivered the results that we’ve seen, and that’s going to work.”
The reproduction number, or R value, remains at 0.7 to 0.9 across the UK. This refers to the number of people on average that one infected person will pass the virus on to.
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Mr Johnson also responded to suggestions that junk food adverts could be banned before the 9pm watershed in a bid to tackle obesity – widely regarded as a risk factor for becoming more seriously ill with COVID-19.
“I’m not normally a believer in nannying… type of politics,” Mr Johnson said, but he added: “Losing weight is, frankly, one of the ways that you can reduce your own risks from COVID.”
Having spent three nights in intensive care with coronavirus, the prime minister said he had since lost more than a stone in weight “primarily by eating less, but also by a lot of exercise”.
In a separate interview with BBC News, Mr Johnson admitted the UK did not understand COVID-19 well enough in the “first few weeks and months” of the pandemic.
“And I think probably, the single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person,” he added.
Responding to the prime minister’s remarks, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it “finally puts to bed the prime minister’s previous claim his government took the right decisions at the right time”.
“It was too slow to acknowledge the threat of the virus, too slow to enter lockdown and too slow to take this crisis seriously,” he said.
Sir Ed Davey, acting Liberal Democrat leader, accused Mr Johnson of showing “no remorse for the catastrophic mistakes” made and called for an “immediate” inquiry.