Boris Johnson returns to work with call to ‘contain your impatience’

Boris Johnson has asked the British public to “contain your impatience” as he returned to work in Downing Street with a promise to be transparent and work across parties to develop a strategy for the second phase of the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street as he resumes working after spending two weeks recovering from Covid-19

In a statement outside Number 10 - the first time Mr Johnson has been seen in public since he contracted the virus - the Prime Minister said the UK was “beginning to turn the tide” but offered no timescale for the easing of lockdown measures.

Mr Johnson said the country was at “the moment of maximum risk” and warned that a second spike in the outbreak would mean “economic disaster”.

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“I know it is tough. And I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS,” the Prime Minister said.

"And I ask you to contain your impatience, because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict and in spite of all the suffering we have so nearly succeeded.”

He said the government was developing plans for the second phase of the coronavirus response, and would be “bringing in opposition parties as much as we possibly can”. Amid criticism of the lack of a clear plan, he pledged greater transparency in how the government was reaching its decisions.

Drawing on his own near-death experience of Covid-19, which saw him spend three nights in intensive care, followed by a two-week convalescence at his official Chequers country retreat, Mr Johnson said: "If this virus were a physical assailant, an unexpected and invisible mugger - which I can tell you from personal experience, it is - then this is the moment when we have begun together to wrestle it to the floor.

"And so it follows that this is the moment of opportunity, this is the moment when we can press home our advantage, it is also the moment of maximum risk.”

He added that he understood "how hard and stressful it has been to give up, even temporarily, those ancient and basic freedoms".

Striking an optimistic tone, Mr Johnson made no specific reference to the UK’s rising death toll, which stands at nearly 21,000, or the difficulties in increasing coronavirus testing or getting personal protective equipment to NHS and care staff.

"We defied so many predictions. We did not run out of ventilators or ICU beds. We did not allow our NHS to collapse, and on the contrary we have so far collectively shielded our NHS so that our incredible doctors and nurses and healthcare staff have been able to shield all of us from an outbreak that would have been far worse and we collectively flattened the peak."

The Prime Minister added: “It is still true that this is the biggest single challenge this country has faced since the war and I in no way minimise the continuing problems we face.

"And yet it is also true that we are making progress with fewer hospital admissions, fewer Covid patients in ICU and real signs now that we are passing through the peak.

"And thanks to your forbearance, your good sense your altruism, your spirit of community, thanks to our collective national resolve, we are on the brink of achieving that first clear mission to prevent our National Health Service from being overwhelmed in a way that tragically we have seen elsewhere.

"And that is how and why we are now beginning to turn the tide."