CORONAVIRUS will be with Britain until the “middle of next year”, the Prime Minister said today.
Boris Johnson admitted the Government could have handled the pandemic “differently” but denied he had been too slow in going into lockdown.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
The PM said people need to stop thinking coronavirus “is something that makes it impossible to do things” because it could be with the UK for another 12 months.
He said: “This planet has faced a very nasty new foe in the form of a bug that we didn’t know about before.
“It’s been a very, very nasty thing for the human race and I think that by the middle of next year, we will be well on the way past it.”
Mr Johnson said there were gaps in the understanding about the deadly virus during the early stages.
But he claimed his administration introduced lockdown at the right time, arguing he “stuck like glue” to the advice of experts.
Speaking to BBC News, the PM said: “Maybe there were things we could have done differently, and of course there will be time to understand what exactly we could have done, or done differently.”
He has promised an inquiry into the approach to dealing with Covid-19 and said there would be a time for questions about the UK’s death rate.
“We didn’t understand (the virus) in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months,” he said.
“And I think probably, the single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person.
“I think it’s fair to say that there are things that we need to learn about how we handled it in the early stages… there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened.”
Labour said the Prime Minister had “finally admitted” the Government had “mishandled its response to the coronavirus”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This finally puts to bed the Prime Minister’s previous claim his Government ‘took the right decisions at the right time’.
“It was too slow to acknowledge the threat of the virus, too slow to enter lockdown and too slow to take this crisis seriously.”
Mr Johnson conceded that Britain was “vulnerable” to a second wave of coronavirus in the winter but looked to assure the public that action was being taken.
“We can see what’s happening in other countries – I won’t name them – but you can see the resurgence that’s happening. We know that we’re vulnerable there,” he said.
“So that’s why we’re getting on now with our preparations for the winter… a massive flu vaccination programme, stockpiling PPE, making sure that we ramp up test and trace, and making sure that people get tested if they have symptoms.”
The warning comes only a week after Mr Johnson said he hoped the UK would be able to get back to normal by Christmas – and social distancing could be dropped to let family hug over the festive season.
But today he watered down hopes for a packed-in family Christmas saying he would not put a date on when social distancing can end.
Mr Johnson said: “The use of face masks, the use of all social distancing measures, really does depend on our ability, collectively to get the pandemic right, right down and to keep it down.
“I’m not going to make a prediction about when these various social distancing measures can come off.”
The PM’s top medical advisors have said that Brits will have to learn to live with coronavirus for a long time unless there’s a vaccine.
Deputy chief medical advisor to the Government Professor Jonathan Van-Tham has warned it could be years until coronavirus is eradicated.
He said previously: “We may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term, certainly for many months to come if not several years.”