Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Boris Johnson: tough action is needed now to avoid new lockdown
17 September 2020, 08:44 | Updated: 17 September 2020, 08:46
Boris Johnson has warned the country must flatten the "second hump" of coronavirus to protect Christmas and avoid the need for a further national lockdown.
The prime minister has said he would consider loosening the rule of six measure to allow for a "fantastic Christmas" this year, but said this would only happen if COVID-19 was "stopped in his tracks" which would need tough action.
He said: "The only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.
"So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.
"Dromedary or camel? I can’t remember if it is a dromedary or a camel that has two humps? Umm. Please check.
"Anyway a double hump. So that is what we need to do!"
READ MORE: Time to follow the Swede Smell of Success?
His comments come after another day of case numbers reaching a high not seen since the beginning of May.
There were 3,991 new infections recorded in the 24 hours to Thursday against the 3,105 recorded the day before.
A further 20 people died with the virus, taking the total number of deaths to 41,684.
"I'm afraid infections do feed through to mortality and that is a fact we have to deal with," Mr Johnson said - but stopped short of supporting a second national lockdown.
He added: "The crucial thing now is that I do not wish to go into some great lockdown again that stops business from functioning."
Referring to the rule of six, which came into effect on Monday and prohibits social gatherings of more than six people, the prime minister said he knew some felt it was "excessive and heavy-handed", but insisted the measure was because COVID-19 had not "gone away".
He told the Sun: "There are places in Europe which I will not name, such is my reputation for diplomacy, where we’ve come down one hump of the camel and we are approaching the next."
He said the country was not "yet" in a position to begin applying curfews - particularly in bars and pubs - but warned the government would be "looking at it".
"I remember when the pubs used to close at 11 anyway in the old days," he said, adding: "That sort of thing, we will be looking at it."
"We don’t want to go there. We want this package to work.
"We are urging people to be cautious. We want people to be disciplined to get the R down."
It has been a particularly turbulent week in government as it was revealed the COVID-19 testing system was buckling under demand, and some people had been taking themselves to A&E to get one.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock later revealed the government had been working through plans to ration tests as there wasn't currently enough for everyone.
In his interview, Mr Johnson admitted the testing system was "really struggling" with demand, but promised to "ramp it up" in the coming weeks.
He encouraged, again, for people to only get tested if they need to do so, and promised a "priority list" would released for those who need tests the most: "nurses, care home workers and teachers".