Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a further Covid lockdown if a new variant emerged that badly affected children, despite admitting some restrictions were “inhumane”.
The Prime Minister played down the prospect of another shutdown but said it would be an option in the event of a damaging new mutation.
He decided against imposing another lockdown at the height of the omicron wave, instead introducing work-from-home guidance and mandatory masks, and saying the UK could “ride out this wave without shutting our country once again”.
In an interview for GB News with Esther McVey and Philip Davies, his fellow Conservative MPs, Mr Johnson was asked whether any future lockdowns would be imposed.
“I want to avoid any such thing ever happening again and I can’t rule out something,” he said. “I can’t say we wouldn’t be forced to do non-pharmaceutical interventions again of the kind we did.
“I think it would be irresponsible of any leader in any democracy to say that they’re going to rule out something that could save life. And I believe the things we did saved lives.”
The Prime Minister warned: “There could be a variant that affects children badly that we really need to contain.
“I’m not going to take any options off the table, but I don’t think it will happen. We’re now in the phase, and this is the view of all the advisers I talk to, where the virus is losing its potency overall and we’ve got a massively vaccinated UK population.”
Asked whether he agreed with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, that some of the Covid restrictions between March 2020 and July 2021 had been “inhuman”, Mr Johnson said: “I do. I do.
“I understand why people feel that, and I think people felt that particularly the loss of the ability to see their loved ones in care homes, or to meet properly for funerals… I mean, it was just appalling, to say nothing of the loss of religious services that matter so much to people’s spirit. So, I totally understand that.”
Mr Johnson also invoked Margaret Thatcher as he said, on the ninth anniversary of her death, that she would have dealt with the pandemic “exactly” like him.
The Government is estimated to have spent as much as £410 billion on its Covid response since March 2020, and he said Thatcher would have taken the same approach to the virus crisis.
“Don’t forget, in times of difficulty Mrs Thatcher had state spending running very, very high as a proportion of GDP because of the economic difficulties the country was in,” he said.
“So something like Covid, I think, she would have dealt with in exactly the same way.”
State spending as a percentage of GDP rose year-on-year during the first four years of the Thatcher premiership.
Mr Johnson said that his government had “already cut taxes very considerably”, but stressed the need to “invest in our NHS at the same time” after Wednesday’s increase in National Insurance to fund the health service and social care.
He claimed measures taken by Rishi Sunak in last month’s Spring Statement constituted literally the biggest tax cut in the last 10 years”, before acknowledging that the current cost-of-living crisis “is going to get more difficult… and then it will get better”.
Eleven children died of Covid as an underlying cause during the first year of the pandemic, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed in February.
Covid hospitalisations in the UK are currently at their highest level since January, although average reported deaths remain lower than during the winter.
- Russian soldier complains troops ‘have frostbite’ and low morale in intercepted call | UK News video
- Drone vid shows Ukrainian attacks destroying Russian military vehicles in Mariupol | UK News video
- Canada Breaking News – Putin says Russia has been ‘cancelled’ like JK Rowling as Harry Potter author hits back
( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )