In Brief

Boris Johnson returns: is it too early to call UK lockdown a ‘success’?

Prime minister accused of ‘epic dishonesty’ for his claim of ‘apparent success’

Boris Johnson spoke outside No. 10 for the first time since recovering from the Covid-19 coronavirus yesterday, claiming “we are now beginning to turn the tide” on the disease.

During his address, Johnson said: “I know that there will be many people looking now at our apparent success, and beginning to wonder whether now is the time to go easy on those social distancing measures.”

The prime minister’s claim of success has proven to be highly contentious. The Independent’s political sketch writer Tom Peck wrote: “Excuse me prime minister? ‘Apparent success’? Who is looking at your apparent success exactly?”

Peck argued that “there is absolutely no disputing whatsoever the certain fact that Johnson and Donald Trump stand alone on the world stage in their crushing failure to manage the response to coronavirus”. Therefore, Peck says, Johnson’s words “showed that his idea of his government’s ‘success’ is as skewed as it ever was”.

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The Guardian’s political correspondent Kate Proctor wrote that Johnson’s claim of success will be “controversial”. She pointed to “the problems getting personal protective equipment to the health and care workers who need it, and concerns over the government’s slow response on testing”.

Proctor notes that the government’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said a death toll under 20,000 would “be a good result” and points out that the UK “has already passed that”.

LBC’s James O’Brien said there is “epic dishonesty involved in claiming that we have enjoyed anything that could have been described as a success” because “around 45,000 people have died in the UK, compared with fewer than 6,000 in Germany”.

Piers Morgan, a fierce critic of the government’s handling of the crisis, was also took issue with Johnson’s claims of success, writing on Twitter: “Our death toll is heading to be the 2nd worst in the world. This is not a ‘success’, Prime Minister - apparent or otherwise.”

Eyebrows were raised across the Atlantic. CNN says Johnson’s government has “faced criticism for its handling of the disease, particularly whether it took the virus seriously enough in the early stages of transmission in the UK”.

However, Johnson champion Tim Montgomerie was more admiring, tweeting of the PM’s address: “That was the much more serious Boris that these times demand”.

The Daily Telegraph’s Tom Harris wrote that Johnson’s words have “shown up his showboating critics” and made the “hysterical tantrums” of his opponents look “out of place”.

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