Irish backstop –
Boris Johnson said the UK was beginning to “turn the tide” against cornonavirus as he made his first public statement since returning to work after being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.
Mr Johnson said he had been away for longer than he would have liked, thanked the public for the “grit” shown during the pandemic and asked people to continue to follow restrictions to protect the National Health Service.
“Once again I want to thank you the people of this country for the sheer grit and guts you’ve shown and are continuing to show,” he told reporters outside 10 Downing Street. “Every day I know that this virus brings new sadness and mourning to households across the land.”
He said the pandemic remains biggest single challenge the UK has faced since the second World War.
The UK has been one of the hardest-hit nations by the pandemic, with more than 20,732 hospital deaths reported as of Saturday. The most stringent lockdown in peacetime has left the economy facing possibly the deepest recession in three centuries and a significant increase in debt.
Mr Johnson had initially resisted imposing a draconian lockdown but then changed course when projections showed a quarter of a million people could die.
He said on Monday that his government would outline plans for an easing of the coronavirus lockdown in the coming days but warned that there would be difficult judgments required.
“We simply cannot spell out now how fast or slow or even when those changes will be made, though clearly the government will be saying much more about this in the coming days,” he said.
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“I want to serve notice now that these decisions will be taken with the maximum possible transparency and I want to share all our working and our thinking, my thinking, with you the British people. Of course we will be relying as ever on the science to inform us, as we have from the beginning.”
The prime minister said the UK was coming “to the end of the first phase of this conflict”.
“We must also recognise the risk of a second spike, the risk of losing control of that virus and letting the reproduction rate go back over one because that would mean not only a new wave of death and disease but also an economic disaster,” he said.
Mr Johnson, drawing on his own experience of the disease, which put him in intensive care for a period, said: “If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger — which I can tell you from personal experience, it is — then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.
“And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk.
“I know there will be many people looking at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.”
He said he understood “how hard and stressful it has been to give up, even temporarily, those ancient and basic freedoms”. – PA and Reuters
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