LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday praised the “great spirit” shown by Britain in tackling COVID-19, marking a year since the first lockdown by saying everyone’s efforts had allowed the country to start “on the cautious road” to easing restrictions.
With Britain suffering one of the highest death tolls from the coronavirus, Johnson has come under fire for moving too slowly last year to tackle the first and second waves of the pandemic, with some accusing him of prioritising the economy over health.
But since then, his government has overseen a successful vaccine rollout, reaching more than half of the adult population, and a cautious approach to easing the latest lockdown, prompting a recovery for him in opinion polls.
“Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history,” Johnson said in a statement.
“We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year. … It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS (National Health Service) was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.”
On March 23 last year, Johnson ordered the first lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, telling Britain that people should “stay at home”, part of a slogan on saving lives that has become a common refrain since then.
Last month, he unveiled a roadmap to ease England’s lockdown, starting with the reopening of schools two weeks ago and ending on June 21 at the earliest when most of the restrictions will be lifted.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Jonathan Oatis)