Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to end all Covid restrictions in England next week – but has refused to rule out bringing them back if a new variant emerges in the future.
In an interview with Sophie Raworth broadcast on BBC Sunday Morning, he said: “You’ve got to be humble in the face of nature.”
He said he really wanted to see the country get back on its feet and economic figures he said were “very encourage”.
The journalist had asked the PM: “Have we seen the end of restrictions, in England at least.? Will we never have to live under restrictions again for Covid?”
Mr Johnson said: “I don’t want to go back to that kind of non-pharmaceutical intervention. I want to be able to address the problems of the pandemic with a vaccine-led approach.”
Viewers this morning also heard Mr Johnson say it is time for the UK to shift the balance away from “state mandate”.
Boris Johnson is expected to repeal all pandemic regulations that restrict public freedoms in England when he lays out his vision for the future on Monday.
In the interview, he said: “We have reached a stage where we think you can shift the balance away from state mandate, away from banning certain courses of action, and compelling certain courses of action, in favor of encouraging personal responsibility.”
He added that the public should remain cautious, and get vaccinated if they are yet to do so.
“I think it’s very important we should remain careful,” he said.
“We’re certainly not asking people to throw caution to the winds. Covid remains a dangerous disease, particularly if you haven’t been vaccinated.”
The Prime Minister also said the UK cannot continue to spend £2 billion a month on testing.
“I think we need resilience, but we don’t need to keep focused on testing,” he said. “We don’t need to keep spending at a rate of £2 billion a month – which is what we were doing in January.”
The move to end self-isolation requirements for positive Covid cases has been criticized by experts.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council of the British Medical Association, told BBC News: “I think the right time is when the first leap of faith is supported.
“You have at the moment more people dying, more people in the hospital, than you had before Plan B (restrictions) was introduced.
“It seems a rather odd decision to make. We need to see case rates fall down even more – remembering that people aren’t being restricted at the moment in any severe way at all – people are living normally.
“The second thing is we do need therefore to continue having surveillance, because you won’t know whether you’ve reached that point where the infection rates have come down enough until you’ve had that surveillance.”
Labor’s shadow secretary for health, Wes Streeting, described ending access to free testing as being like “subbing your best defender” with 10 minutes to go.
He told Sky News: “I am particularly concerned about the end of free testing.
“It’s like being 2-1 up with 10 minutes left of play and subbing your best defender.
“We are not out of the woods yet on Covid and it is important that when the Government publishes its plan for living with Covid tomorrow, that it is a robust plan that enables everyone to live well with Covid.”
In the BBC Sunday Morning interview, Mr Johnson also refused to say what he told police about alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street in a questionnaire.
“As soon as I have something more to say about this matter I will do so, but I can’t give a running commentary of any kind and I wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said.
“As soon as I am able to say something, I assure you, you will be amongst the very first.”
He also refused to answer if he would resign if the police found he had broken lockdown rules.
He added: “I can’t comment about the processes currently under way.”
Asked if the public would take the Prime Minister’s instruction to follow the Covid rules again following the accusations, he said: “I’ll answer all that when the time comes on that point.
“But on would people obey the rules, will people look after themselves and other people? Look at the evidence, look at what the British people have done.”