Covid: Johnson says government must use second England lockdown to find new solutions to tackle pandemic

 Boris Johnson told his Cabinet they have a deadline to come up with solutions that did not previously exist.
Boris Johnson told his Cabinet they have a deadline to come up with solutions that did not previously exist. Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has told his ministers they must use the four weeks England is in lockdown to come up with new solutions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister reiterated in a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the second lockdown will "expire on December 2, they come to an end" and "therefore as a government and indeed as a country, we have a deadline, we have a target, and we must use this time to develop solutions that in the previous lockdown did not exist".

It was not clear what solutions could be developed, but he struck an optimistic tone about the battle with coronavirus, saying there is a "very clear way ahead" which includes the "prospect of vaccine", better Covid-19 treatments, and a "system of mass testing".

"So amid the uncertain gloom of November, I see light ahead and I’m absolutely certain that we will have better days before us," he added.

Mr Johnson pointed to a mass testing pilot in Liverpool, which he says will "help people understand immediately whether they are infectious and if they are that they need to immediately self-isolate".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses Cabinet:

As part of the trial, anyone living or working in the city can be tested regularly from Friday, even if they have no symptoms.

The provision of around half a million new, rapid turnaround tests is happening at the request of local leaders, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.Testing will be carried out in new and existing sites across the city, including in hospitals, care home settings, schools, universities, workplaces and using at-home kits.

Mr Johnson said rapid turnaround testing could be of "massive and possibly decisive use to us in this country in defeating the virus".

He explained he was forced to impose the England lockdown to "prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed".

"Be in absolutely no doubt," he added, "we would see fatalities running in the thousands if nothing was done".

The new lockdown in England, which begins on Thursday, will force the majority of businesses to close for a month and ban most social interactions.

People are being advised to stay home as much as possible and will only be able to meet with a maximum of one person in an outdoor public place.

Mr Johnson said "none of us came into politics to introduce measures like this", adding "we don’t want to be doing things to repress liberty, we don’t want to do anything to damage our economy, to stop business from going about their lives."

But he said the measures were necessary to bring down coronavirus infection rates across the country.

He said ministers should "work flat out" in order to "repay the confidence of the people who are doing the right thing and following the latest Autumn measures".