By Rachael Grealish
The Prime Minister has lamented on the last year in lockdown calling the efforts against COVID-19 an ‘epic of endurance’, while recognising the loss of life, but didn’t say he wished he’d locked down sooner.
Speaking at the briefing today, Tuesday March 23, Boris Johnson compared the UK’s fight against the virus like ‘fighting in the dark against a callous and invisible enemy’.
He said: “When I asked you to lock down a year ago, it seemed incredible.
“That in the 21st century, this was the only way to fight a new respiratory disease, to stay at home, to avoid human contact, to shun so many of the patterns of behaviour that are most natural and obvious to all of us, but we did it together, did it together to protect the NHS, to save lives.
“For the entire British people, it’s been an epic of endurance and cancellations of children’s birthday parties, cancelled weddings, postponed family gatherings of all kinds, simply deleted from the diary,” he added.
“And worst of all, in that time we’ve suffered so many losses. For so many people our grief has been made more acute because we haven’t been able to see our loved ones in their final days.”
The PM went on to say science helped us get the ‘upper hand’ against the virus and said when looking back on the pandemic in years to come NHS staff, shop workers and police we’ll be the ‘heroes’ of the stories.
“Our fight against Coronavirus has been like fighting in the dark against a callous and invisible enemy,” he continued, “Science has helped us to turn the lights on, to gain the upper hand and I want to renew my thanks, to everyone for the astounding vaccination rollout.
“We’ll tell the stories of the heroes, NHS, the care, the pharmacists, armed services personnel, shop workers, transport workers, the police and so many others.
“But, in the end, this was unlike any other struggle in my lifetime in that in our entire population has been engaged and it’s thanks to all of you that we can continue on our roadmap to freedom.
“Cautiously, but irreversibly, step by step, jab by jab, this country is on the path to reclaiming our freedom.”
Johnson went on to promise the country is still on the path to vaccinating all adults before the end of July and hitting other roapmap landmarks.
When asked what he would’ve done differently the PM did admit he wished he had known many things in retrospect and if so he would’ve done things differently.
However, he did not say he wished he had locked the country down earlier and didn’t answer the question directly.
He said: “First of all, on on your question about the timing of the decisions that we that we took, these are very, very hard decisions.
“And there are no good outcomes either way as as as I think all our viewers understand, all these consequences are a very, very tough for people. And all I can say is we took all the decisions with the interests of the of the British people.”
Although the end is in sight the PM said COVID-19 is something ‘we’ll be dealing with as long as I live’.
He said: “This is something we will remember and be dealing with in different ways for as long as I live. It’s been an extraordinary moment in our history, a deeply difficult and distressing period.
“But the extent to which it affects us will depend on the fortifications we build against it.
He added the biggest damage will be ‘the loss of learning for so many children and young people’.
Saying: “That’s what we’ve got to focus on in society.
“I think there’s a chance to learn from the pandemic, discovering how you can teach through Zoom and teach better through technology and maximising our use of tutoring as well.”
Johnson was also joined by Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty who added to this answer.
Professor Whitty said: “COVID itself will be with us for the foreseeable future. Science has extraordinarily responded to this, so we will bring it down to manageable levels.”
He also said there will be a ‘delayed’ negative impact on other parts of the NHS and that it has highlighted deprivation.
Sir Patrick Vallance also stressed the legacy on mental health of the nation.