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The prime minister rebuffed calls to further ease restrictions, telling MPs at the Tory backbench 1922 committee “don’t think it couldn’t happen here” in an apparent reference to countries like the US which have suffered second peaks.
One MP asked whether Johnson could make it the default position that businesses, entertainment and other premises are open unless told to close.
But the PM stressed “we can’t be complacent” and insisted: “We are doing our best to throttle the life out of the virus”.
Meanwhile, Johnson told backbench Tories, many of whom are calling for a tougher approach to China, that the government was not going to be “mindlessly adversarial” towards Beijing.
It came after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told China-sceptic Tories he would like to see the UK adopt a harder “grand strategy” towards China, and reportedly accused Beijing of “buying” the head of the World Health Organisation.
Johnson told MPs he would continue to take action where appropriate on issues like the Hong Kong security law and the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
“I’m an admirer of Chinese culture and civilisation but that doesn’t mean at the same time we can’t call China out where they are going wrong,” the PM said.
He said the UK would “continue to engage” but conceded “we’ve got to be tough”.
“We have to be strong and stick to our principles,” the PM said.
One MP said Johnson’s message at the end of the parliamentary term ahead of summer recess was that the last few months had been “tough” but that he was now “extremely forward looking and positive”, if “cautious and wary” about coronavirus.
Another said the PM “did very well” in an “end of term-style speech” to a well-attended meeting of highly supportive MPs, who left “in good spirits”.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.