'Absolute nightmare': Boris Johnson admits coronavirus has been a disaster for the country

Boris Johnson has said the fact that more pupils in Britain are not back at school is a source of “deep frustration” for him.

The prime minister, speaking to Times Radio, also suggested an investigation should take place into the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but said now “was not the right time”.

He said: “We owe it to all those who have died, all those who have suffered, to look at exactly what went wrong and when.

“I totally understand that and we will.

“I happen to think that the moment is not right now, in the middle of really getting things going, still dealing with the pandemic, when everybody is flat-out.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives his daily COVID 19 press briefing at Downing Street on March 22, 2020 in London, England. Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has said 'we owe it to those who died' to investigate what went wrong with the UK's handling of coronavirus crisis. (Ian Vogler-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Johnson admitted the coronavirus crisis had been a “disaster” and an “absolute nightmare” for the UK and said he wanted to set out a plan to “bounce forward”.

“This has been a disaster, let’s not mince our words, this has been an absolute nightmare for the country,” he said.

Discussing the fact that many students will not return to school until September, Johnson appealed to teaching unions to back him in reassuring parents that schools were safe places.

BOVINGDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 19: Prime Minister Boris Johnson waits in line in the playground to wash his hands during a visit to Bovingdon Primary School on June 19, 2020 near Hemel Hempstead. The Government have announced a GBP 1 billion plan to help pupils catch up with their education before September after spending months out of school during the coronavirus lockdown. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson waits in line in the playground to wash his hands during a visit to Bovingdon Primary School on 19 June. (Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of exaggerating number of schools that were reopening

He said: “The fact that we haven’t got enough kids back in school is a source of deep frustration for me.

“We need everybody to understand school is safe, the years that can go back should go back.

“It would be very helpful if our friends in the teaching unions really delivered that message loud and clear, and some of the councils.”

A spike in coronavirus cases in Leicester has prompted calls for a targeted lockdown in the city and the PM said it was crucial to be ready to crack down on local flare-ups.

Asked if he was still worried that total deaths and the infection rate remained too high, he said: “Every day I worry.

Read more: Government scientific adviser 'worried' about spike in coronavirus cases within weeks

“Local hospital admissions are coming down, so are the death numbers.

“They are much, much lower than they were a few weeks ago and that is encouraging. But the crucial thing is to make sure we are ready to crack down on local flare-ups.

“We have a whack-a-mole strategy.”

Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester talks during the Federation of Small Businesses Conference 2013 at The Curve, Leicester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 22, 2013.   (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he is 'angry and frustrated' with the government's guidance on dealing with a coronavirus flare-up. (Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has told LBC he is “angry and frustrated” that a meeting with government officials scheduled for 9am on Monday was cancelled.

He said a document sent to him by the government at around 1am had “very little substance” and suggested only that restrictions due to be lifted for the rest of the country on 4 July should remain in place for Leicester for an extra two weeks.

On Sunday, home secretary Priti Patel, in interviews with broadcasters, appeared to confirm Leicester would be locked down.

But Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary and Leicester South MP, said Patel had “got slightly in a muddle” about a possible lockdown.

He said he had spoken to health secretary Matt Hancock, adding: “I don’t believe a local lockdown in Leicester is about to be proposed.”

LONDON, April 2, 2020 .File photo taken on April 2, 2020 shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson clapping for National Health Service staff outside 11 Downing Street in London, Britain. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken to intensive care on Monday night after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, Downing Street said. Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him, a Downing Street spokesman said. (Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street/Handout to Xinhua via Getty) (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
Johnson said he had been 'very lucky' in his recovery from COVID-19. (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)

Johnson, who was admitted to intensive care in April having contracted coronavirus, also acknowledged he had been “very lucky” in his recovery and said the experience had given him an “even deeper love and admiration for the NHS and everything they can do”.

He said: “I’m also conscious that many thousands of people tragically were not so lucky, and my job now is to get our whole country bouncing back to health, building back to health.”

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