British prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday (6) likened his own health with that of the country’s economy, which was superficially healthy but had some chronic underlying conditions which were exposed by COVID-19.
Johnson, who was hospitalised after testing positive for coronavirus earlier in the year, has often spoken about his struggle to lose weight in order to ward off an added risk from the deadly virus.
Addressing delegates of the Conservative Party for its annual conference, being held virtually in keeping with the coronavirus guidelines for large meetings, the Tory party chief set out his vision for a post-COVID British economy in a rousing speech, even as he hit back at critics who have questioned if his bout of COVID had somehow robbed him of his “mojo”.
“I have to admit the reason I had such a nasty experience with the disease is that although I was superficially in the peak of health when I caught it, I had a very common underlying condition. My friends I was too fat,” he said, claiming that he has since lost nearly 12 kg.
“When you look at the general economic condition of this country when we went into lockdown there was a similarity because we were on the face of it in pretty good shape… And yet if you looked more carefully you could see – and indeed many of us said so at the time – that the UK economy had some chronic underlying problems: long-term failure to tackle the deficit in skills, inadequate transport infrastructure, not enough homes people could afford to buy… that isn’t good enough,” said Johnson.
The 56-year-old went on to lay out his party’s plans that would mean not to “restore normality” but to “reform and renew” the country.
Evoking the UK’s recovery from the Second World War, he said he wanted to build a “new Jerusalem”, with opportunity for all, improved housing and healthcare.
Among the policies he detailed for the future include making the UK a “world leader” in green energy by announcing £160 million of investment in ports and factories to increase electricity generation from offshore wind; boost house building through changes to England’s planning system; and greater provision of one-to-one teaching for pupils who had fallen behind during the pandemic.
Amid repeated references to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, his neighbour at No 11 Downing Street, and the various economic measures put in place by the Conservative Party government to fight against the economic impact of the pandemic, the UK prime minister admitted that increased bail-outs and subsidies to prop up the economy go against his party’s traditional free market instincts but there was “simply no reasonable alternative”.
Overall, he sought to strike a note of optimism with the annual party policy speech as he promised that the government was working “night and day to repel this virus”.
“I know the people of this country are going to defeat this virus… I believe it is a measure of the greatness of this country that we are simply not going to let it hold us back or slow us down, and we are certainly not going to let it get us down,” he said.
The UK has so far reported 518,222 cases of coronavirus with 42,549 deaths so far due to the contagious disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.