Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, back at work after recovering from COVID-19, says the country has reached the point of “maximum risk” in the coronavirus outbreak, arguing that lifting the nationwide lockdown too soon would allow a second spike of infections.
- Boris Johnson has recovered from COVID-19, after testing positive a month ago
- The UK is one of the worst-hit nations on earth with more than 20,000 deaths
- Mr Johnson’s Government faced criticism over its reluctance to quickly implement a lockdown
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street on his first day back at work after three weeks off sick with the virus, Mr Johnson said the country was beginning to “turn the tide.”
He compared the disease to a street criminal that British people had wrestled to the floor.
“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,” he said.
Mr Johnson’s Conservative government is under mounting pressure to set out a blueprint for easing the lockdown that has hobbled business activity and daily life since March 23. The restrictions are due to last until at least May 7.
The United Kingdom is one of the worst-hit nations, with more than 20,732 hospital deaths reported as of Saturday.
Mr Johnson said he understood people and businesses were eager to get back to work in the world’s fifth largest economy, but asked for patience.
“I believe that we are coming to the end of the first phase of this conflict and in spite of all the suffering we have so nearly succeeded,” he said.
“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.”
The address came a month and a day since Mr Johnson tested positive for the virus, which threatened his life. He spent a week in St Thomas’ Hospital in London, including three nights in intensive care.
When he was discharged on April 13, Mr Johnson thanked medics at the hospital for saving his life.
He has been recovering for the past two weeks at his Chequers country retreat.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
At the start of the outbreak, Mr Johnson initially resisted imposing a draconian lockdown but then changed course when projections showed a quarter of a million people could die.
Since the lockdown was imposed on March 23, his Government has faced criticism from opposition parties and some doctors for initially delaying the lockdown, limited testing capabilities, and lack of protective equipment for health workers.
The most stringent lockdown in peacetime has left the economy facing possibly the deepest recession in three centuries and the biggest debt splurge since World War Two.
What you need to know about coronavirus: