COVID-19: Boris Johnson denies saying he would rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown

Boris Johnson has denied saying he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than have another COVID lockdown.

The prime minister rebuffed newspaper allegations that he had made the comments in October, just prior to England’s second national lockdown.

The Daily Mail on Monday reported that Mr Johnson exclaimed after a Number 10 meeting at the time: “No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

But, asked if he had ever made those remarks during a visit to Wrexham at Monday lunchtime, the prime minister said: “No.

“The important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work and they have.

“I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, that have really pulled together and – working with the vaccination programme – we’ve got the disease under control.

“The number of deaths, the number of hospitalisations, are currently very low.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ve got it totally licked, it doesn’t mean that COVID is over.”

Mr Johnson warned the public needed to be “realistic” as “there will probably be another wave” of COVID infections.

But he said the UK’s “massive” vaccine programme – which has now seen more than 33.6m receive a COVID jab – had “built up what I think are some pretty robust fortifications against the next wave”.

“We’ll have to see how strong they really are in due course,” he added.

“But in the meantime, everybody should come forward and get your get your vaccine when you’re asked.”

The Daily Mail reported Mr Johnson’s alleged comments were made at the end of October as the UK was hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.

According to the newspaper, the prime minister was given a warning by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that – without new restrictions – soldiers would be needed to guard hospitals overrun with COVID patients.

Mr Johnson agreed to fresh measures but also vented his frustration at having to implement tough measures again, said the Daily Mail’s account.

On 31 October last year, the prime minister announced a month-long lockdown in England throughout November.

After a brief reopening, England went back into a national lockdown again – the third – in January, as ministers highlighted the impact of the Kent variant of the virus.

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The allegation about Mr Johnson’s comments in October comes amid a bitter feud between Downing Street and the prime minister’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

Last week, Number 10 “sources” were quoted in newspapers as blaming Mr Cummings for recent leaks about the prime minister’s private conversations.

But Mr Cummings hit back and denied “false accusations”.

Asked about the reports of Mr Johnson’s alleged comments in October, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News earlier on Monday: “We’re getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories – unnamed sources by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events.

“None of this is serious.”

Mr Wallace said Mr Johnson and his cabinet ministers had been “utterly focussed” on their response to the COVID crisis.

“All the ‘who said, what said, what said’, I’ll leave that to the Oscar gossip columns that are now being rolled out today after last night, I’ll leave that to the Hello magazines of the world,” he added.

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