Boris Johnson has boasted he got many things “emphatically right” when responding to coronavirus despite more than 50,000 deaths.
The Prime Minister hailed the efforts of his own government and the NHS as he gave a speech vowing to “build, build, build” Britain’s way out of the crisis.
Just hours after a new outbreak in Leicester prompted the UK’s first local lockdown, the PM admitted the admitted the virus was still “circling like a shark in the water”.
And he said: “I know that there are plenty of things that people say and will say that we got wrong.
“And we owe that discussion and that honesty to the tens of thousands who have died before their time, to the families who have lost loved ones, and of course there must be time to learn the lessons, and we will.”
But he went on: “I also know that some things went right – and emphatically right.”
The Tory leader then spent a considerable portion of his speech listing the many things he believed Britain got right in the crisis.
More than 53,000 people in the UK have died with coronavirus mentioned on their death certificate, while the number of excess deaths is above 65,000.
Although international comparisons can’t be made conclusively, the UK’s is the third-highest officially-recorded national death toll in the world after the US and Brazil.
The UK government has been accused of multiple failures – including being too slow to lock down in March and too slow to roll out widespread testing.
Events like the Cheltenham Festival and football matches were allowed to go ahead while other European countries went into lockdown.
Ministers and scientific advisors said for months that face masks were of debatable benefit before making them compulsory public transport.
Widespread community testing was ended in mid-March, and people arriving at or living in care homes were not routinely tested until mid-April.
Meanwhile the “test and trace” system to track down people exposed to Covid-19 still does not have an app, despite Matt Hancock originally pledging it by mid-May.
That means people can only track down contacts with people they know, not strangers on public transport.
But in speech unveiling £5bn of infrastructure spending, Mr Johnson boasted there was also a lot to be proud of.
He said: “I think of the speed and efficiency with which we put up the Nightingales – ten days for a hospital.
“I think of the drive and inventiveness of the British companies who rose to the ventilator challenge, with three brand new production lines called into being within the space of eight weeks.
“With a new model of ventilator developed in March and granted regulatory approval in weeks, and 9,500 of them now made.
“I pay tribute to the pace at which Oxford university managed to perform the trials for dexamethasone, the world’s first demonstrably life-saving treatment for the disease.
“I am in awe of the problem-crunching fury with which HMRC and the Treasury created the furlough scheme and all the other means of support – world-leading standards of protection for jobs and incomes, set up in a matter of days.
“There were brilliant and determined individuals who more than rose to the challenge of this crisis.
“There were thousands and thousands who put their hearts and souls into it.
“And yet our debt is not just to them – it is not just even to the devotion and love of the NHS and the care workers who saved so many lives, including my own.
“There was one big reason in the end that we were able to avert a far worse disaster, and that was because the whole of society came together to make a sacrifice on behalf of those who might be particularly vulnerable – particularly the elderly.”