LONDON (Dispatches) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus crisis had been a disaster for the United Kingdom and while the government would look at what went wrong it was not the right time to have an inquiry into missteps.
"This has been a disaster,” Johnson told Times Radio. "Let’s not mince our words, I mean this has been an absolute nightmare for the country and the country has gone through a profound shock.”
Johnson also said reports of him looking wraithlike were complete nonsense.
British opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said on Monday that Johnson has been asleep at the wheel during the coronavirus crisis and had been far too slow to make major decisions.
"I think the prime minister has been asleep at the wheel, he has been slow, the comms, the communications has been terrible,” Starmer told ITV. "It began to break down frankly when Dominic Cummings put forward a ridiculous defense of what he had done in the north east.”
"They haven’t done the groundwork on test, trace and isolate,” Starmer said.
Johnson said the coronavirus crisis needed the type of massive economic response U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilized to deal with the Great Depression.
Britain, he said, was heading for "bumpy times” as it struggles through its biggest economic contraction on record.
He intends to unveil a spending program in a speech Tuesday his office has simply dubbed "build, build, build”.
"I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK, really really moving forward,” said Johnson. "I really think the investment will pay off.”
"The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better,” Johnson said.
"We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband -- you name it.”
Johnson’s interview with Times Radio comes a week before the full reopening of restaurants, pubs and other parts of the hospitality, tourism and cultural sectors in England for the first time since March 20.
A full lockdown was imposed three days later, and has been one of the longest in Europe.