Johnson Warns Angry Britons of ‘Tough Winter’ in Covid Battle

Johnson accepts the public is angry with his handling of the pandemic, but warned that U.K. still faces a very tough winter.

Johnson Warns Angry Britons of ‘Tough Winter’ in Covid Battle
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he accepts the public is angry with his handling of the pandemic, as officials confirmed thousands of positive cases had been missed from Covid test results.

After months of criticism and amid a slide in the polls, Johnson also warned that the country still faces a “very tough winter” ahead.

“I know people are furious and they’re furious with me,” the prime minister said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr program on Sunday. “It’s going to be bumpy through to Christmas, it may even be bumpy beyond.” The public, he said, should live “fearlessly but with common sense.”

Johnson Warns Angry Britons of ‘Tough Winter’ in Covid Battle

Johnson’s message was aimed at trying to persuade the public of the difficulty of his task -- to strike a balance between suppressing the virus, as new cases rise, while keeping the economy open to save jobs.

Politically, he is seeking to use the Conservative Party’s conference -- forced online this year -- to reassert his authority on a fractious party and reset the agenda for his government.

In other developments:

  • Public Health England said 15,841 positive test results had been missed from official daily Covid figures between Sept. 25-Oct. 2. The error was due to a technical issue in the automated processing of data, the agency said. It took the daily figures announced on Sunday to more than 22,000 cases.
  • After reports of tensions between them, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will deliver his speech to the conference on Monday and will pay tribute to Johnson, his office said. Sunak will say he feels the “pain” of job losses every day.
  • Ministers will launch a 238 million ($307.8 million) pound program to help prepare people who lose their jobs for finding new work, with interview coaching and specialist advice.
  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Sunday that freedoms given to cafes and restaurants during the pandemic -- such as allowing al fresco dining -- could be made permanent.
  • Less than half the population is likely to be vaccinated against coronavirus, the head of the government’s vaccine task force Kate Bingham told the Financial Times. “We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk,” she said.

Johnson, like other world leaders, is hoping for the rapid development and roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine to overcome the crisis. He said he believes the “scientific equation will change” in the coming weeks and months.

Addressing the U.K.’s broader coronavirus response, Johnson also acknowledged weaknesses in the country’s virus test and trace system, after widespread reports of poor availability and slow turnaround of tests, saying he was “frustrated with it.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.