Boris Johnson’s Covid flip-flops: the pledges upended by reality – The Guardian


Boris Johnson has been criticised for making a series of wildly optimistic promises during the Covid-19 crisis that have either not materialised or led to U-turns. Here are some of his main pledges:

‘Turning the tide’

20 March: “I am very confident that we’ll beat coronavirus. I think we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks.”

19 December: Johnson is forced to announce the introduction of tier 4 restrictions, effectively local lockdowns.

Test and trace

20 May: “We have growing confidence that we will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating, and yes, it will be in place by 1 June.”

11 December: The National Audit Office found the government had spent £22bn on a test-and-trace programme that had repeatedly failed to meet targets for delivering test results and contacting infected people.


17 July: “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, possibly in time for Christmas.”

19 December: Johnson announces that he is putting more than 17 million people in southern and eastern England under tier 4 restrictions.


19 July: A lockdown “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.” These comments put him at odds with his chief scientific adviser.

14 October: Johnson dismisses calls from the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, for a “circuit breaker” lockdown, telling the House of Commons that “opportunism is the name of the game for the party opposite”.

31 October: Johnson announces a second national lockdown.

Christmas (again)

16 December: “I want to be clear, we don’t want to ban Christmas, to cancel it … I think that would be frankly inhuman and against the instincts of many people in this country … Nor do we want to criminalise plans people may have made for some time.”

19 December: Johnson announces that many people will have to cancel their plans for Christmas after a sharp increase in cases across London and the south-east. Ministers say those attempting to travel out of tier 4 areas could be arrested.


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