Mixed messages: Boris Johnson's quotes on Covid lockdowns

From announcing the first national lockdown in March to PMQs at the end of October

Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown for England on Saturday evening. Here is what he has previously said about lockdown.

On 19 March, four days before the first national lockdown was announced:

I think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks and I’m absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country.

On 23 March, announcing the first full lockdown:

I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to.

On 10 May, announcing the easing of the first lockdown

It is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down … It would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike.


On 17 July at a press conference:

It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph published on 19 July:

I can’t abandon that tool [a second lockdown] any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again.

In a TV address to the nation on 22 September, announcing early closing for pubs:

If we were forced into a new national lockdown, that would threaten not just jobs and livelihoods but the loving human contact on which we all depend … We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.

In a statement to MPs on 12 October, announcing the three-tier alert system:

This is not how we want to live our lives, but this is the narrow path we have to tread between the social and economic trauma of a full lockdown and the massive human and, indeed, economic cost of an uncontained epidemic.

At PMQs on 14 October:

We know that it is regionally distributed, rather than nationally distributed, at the moment, and that gives us a chance to do the right thing. [Keir Starmer] wants to close pubs. He wants to close bars. He wants to close businesses in areas across the country where the incidence is low … Let us try to avoid the misery of another national lockdown, which he would want to impose, as I say, in a headlong way.

At PMQs on 21 October:

It is the height of absurdity that [Keir Starmer] stands up and attacks the economic consequences of the measures we are obliged to take across some parts of the country when he wants to turn the lights out with a full national lockdown.


Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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