July 24, 2020 / 9:11 AM / 21 days ago

UK PM Johnson: We'll be past coronavirus by mid-2021

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday he thought the country would be through the coronavirus crisis by mid-2021 but feared there may be a second spike that could overwhelm the health service.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, Britain, June 30, 2020. Paul Ellis/Pool via Reuters

“Whether it came from... a bat, a pangolin or however it emerged, it was a very, very nasty thing for the human race. And I think by the middle of next year we will be well on the way past it,” he told reporters.

“This country is going to bounce back stronger than ever before,” Johnson said. “We’ve still got the threat of a second spike.”

On a visit to a doctor’s surgery, Johnson said he hoped everybody would get a flu vaccine to lower the pressure on the health service during the winter months.

“There’s all these anti-vaxxers now,” Johnson told medical workers. “They are nuts, they are nuts.”

In the year since Johnson became the British leader, he has won a landslide election victory, delivered on his pledge to lead Britain out of the European Union and came close to death with COVID-19.

But opposition parties say Johnson was too slow to impose a lockdown, failed to identify care homes as a vulnerability, botched the test-and-trace system and failed to sack his senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, for travelling during lockdown.

Speaking a year since he became prime minister, Johnson said his experience was that government needed “to move faster and be more responsive to the needs of the people.”

He mentioned that people were unable to get their passports or birth certificates in time and that there was a backlog of court cases.

“Sometimes government can be slow,” Johnson told reporters while reflecting on his year in power. “We are learning the whole time.”

He added that proposals would be brought forward on the funding of social care to protect people from the risk of having to sell their homes to fund care.

Asked how long people would have to wear face masks, Johnson said he would rely on the common sense of the British people but refused to give any sense of when the COVID-19 measures would be relaxed.

Johnson, who has complained that the British are far fatter than any other nation in Europe bar the Maltese, said people should lose weight.

“I’m not normally a believer in nannying, bossing politics but the reality is that obesity is one of the comorbidity factors,” Johnson said. “I’ve lost about a stone and a bit, primarily by eating less but also by a lot of exercise.”

Asked why he never apologised, Johnson quipped: “I am sorry if I don’t apologise.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle; editing by Sarah Young and Raissa Kasolowsky

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