Prime minister Boris Johnson on Sunday (4) warned of a “bumpy” ride at least through to Christmas in December, as the UK recorded more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases in a day for the first time since mass testing for the deadly virus was put in place.
According to official figures, there were 12,872 new cases on Saturday, while a further 49 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19.
However, the government said a technical issue meant some cases from earlier in the week were not recorded at the time so these were included in Saturday’s data.
Johnson tried to strike a note of optimism over progress in beating the virus and said he believed over the “next few weeks and months” the “scientific equation will change, whether that is vaccines or testing”.
“I’ve got to tell you in all candour it’s going to continue to be bumpy through to Christmas, it may even be bumpy beyond,” Johnson told the BBC.
“This could be a very tough winter for all of us – we’ve got to face that fact,” he said.
While insisting his government was working “flat out” to fight the pandemic, Johnson said he took “full responsibility for everything that has happened since the pandemic began”, admitting the National Health Service (NHS) led Test and Trace system was “not perfect”. But he said scientific advisers had told him that by spring in March/April 2021 “things will be radically different and we will be in a different world”.
Johnson said he understood people’s “frustration” at differing rules and restrictions for different parts of the country but stressed that localised lockdowns was the right way to go and wait to see if the R number – of the rate at which the infection is transmitted – comes down as a result.
“I’m a freedom-loving Tory. I don’t want to have to impose measures like this, are you crazy? This is the last thing we want to do. But I also have to save life. And that’s our priority,” he said.
“And as prime minister I couldn’t take a course that could expose us to tens of thousands more deaths in very short order…we’ve got to continue to bear down on this virus, whilst protecting the economy. That’s the balance we’ve got to strike,” he added.
The interview this weekend coincides with his Conservative Party’s annual conference, being conducted virtually for the first time due to coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings.
The Tories have created a 3D virtual conference with a computer-generated auditorium, foyer and fringe meeting rooms. However, the system has not been smooth-sailing as the virtual platform crashed during a session with UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.