After lockdown restrictions were reimposed on the east Midlands city earlier this week following a surge in new COVID-19 cases, the prime minister warned similar outbreaks will happen in other towns and cities “for some time to come”.
Johnson was speaking at a special Downing Street press conference ahead of Saturday’s easing of lockdown rules in England – apart from in Leicester.
It will see businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers reopen, while two households will be allowed to meet up indoors and stay overnight.
The PM said on Friday: “We always said there would be local outbreaks requiring local action.
“This is to be expected and will, I’m afraid, be a feature of our lives for some time to come.”
He added: “The virus is still with us and the spike in Leicester has shown that. If it starts running out of control again, this government will not hesitate in putting on the brakes and reimposing restrictions.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, also warned: “We will still see local outbreaks. There will be an increase in local outbreaks, there’s no question about that, and we need to be able to monitor and deal with this.”
Sir Patrick said sticking to “COVID-secure” rules will “reduce any upswing nationally”.
Meanwhile, Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, used the briefing to again sound caution about the easing of restrictions on Saturday.
“None of us believe, and I am sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step.
“It is absolutely not, and that’s why we have to be really serious about it.”
Last week, Johnson admitted Prof Whitty had particular concerns about pubs reopening.
And Prof Whitty warned at Friday’s press conference: “There is no doubt these are environments whose principle job it is to bring people together. That is a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.
“Therefore we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs, and this would be true in any other environment.”
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