Boris Johnson says he hasn't 'over-promised' throughout coronavirus crisis

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
'Over-promising'? Boris Johnson faces questions at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (Tolga Akmen/PA)
'Over-promising'? Boris Johnson faces questions at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (Tolga Akmen/PA)

Boris Johnson has denied “over-promising” during the coronavirus pandemic after cancelling Christmas days after saying this would be “inhuman”.

On Saturday, the prime minister was forced to scrap the UK’s “Christmas bubbles” plan that would have allowed three households to mix between 23 and 27 December.

In England, household mixing is now only allowed on Christmas Day in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 – while no mixing whatsoever is permitted in areas in the newly created Tier 4.

That announcement came just three days after Johnson said it would be “frankly inhuman” to “ban Christmas”, even as it was known COVID-19 infections were on the increase.

Watch: How Boris Johnson's message on Christmas has changed

During Monday’s Downing Street press conference, it meant Johnson faced questions of “over-promising and under-delivering” and causing public confusion.

The PM appeared to deny this as he said: “It is very important to be as realistic as we possibly can.

“I don’t think anybody would want to have seen this country spend this last year in a total lockdown.

“We have had to do what we can to keep our economy moving.”

However, there have been a number of other occasions during the pandemic in which Johnson’s promises have not been met. Here are a few examples…

19 March: ‘Turn the tide’

This was a time, admittedly, when less was known about COVID. But Johnson said the UK would “turn the tide of this disease” in 12 weeks.

To a limited extent, he was correct. The nation moved out of lockdown in June.

Yet infections began spreading rapidly again in the autumn, and the government has been losing its battle against the virus ever since – to the extent that Johnson was in the position of having to cancel people’s Christmases.

Boris Johnson at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (Tolga Akmen/PA)
Boris Johnson at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (Tolga Akmen/PA)

20 May: ‘Defeat this disease’

The PM promised MPs a testing and contact tracing system, later named NHS Test and Trace, “that will help us very greatly to defeat this disease and move the country forward”.

He added: “We will have a test, track and trace operation that will be world-beating.”

On Thursday, Test and Trace only reached its 80% target for reaching close contacts of COVID-positive people for the second time since launching.

17 July: ‘Normality from November’

Setting out a major easing of coronavirus rules, the PM said normality was possible from November.

"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.”

In fact, it was November when Johnson was reimposing a national lockdown on England.

Read more:

The Tier 4 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules explained

The Tier 2 COVID lockdown rules explained

Watch: What is long COVID?