Boris Johnson has blamed “complacent” members of the public slacking off on rules for surging rates of coronavirus.
The Prime Minister finally apologised tonight for the problems that beset the outsourced Test and Trace system.
But he brazenly claimed that was not responsible for surging virus rates – despite result waiting times soaring last month and people being offered tests hundreds of miles away.
Instead, asked if a lack of testing allowed the virus to get out of control, the PM told BBC North East and Cumbria: “That’s not the reality.
“The nation came together in March and April. What happened over the summer was a bit of sort of fraying of people’s discipline and attention to those rules.”
And he made similar comments when asked by BBC Scotland about the situation there.
He said: “You saw what happened in March and April in Scotland, across the country, we came together and got the virus down.
“Alas what happened since then is that everyone got a bit, y’know complacent and a bit blasé about transmission.
“And the rules on social distancing weren’t perhaps obeyed in the way they could have been or enforced in the way they could have been.
“And that’s why we’ve had to put in measures both in Scotland and elsewhere to bring it down again.
“And I hope that they will work, I think that they will work.”
In a string of regional TV interviews, the PM was challenged over the Test and Trace chaos and confusing local lockdown rules that now apply to more than 50 parts of England.
He told BBC London: “Of course there are people who’ve had bad experiences and I apologise for the bad experiences that people have had with NHS Test and Trace.
“But it is a fact that we are conducting more tests than any other European countries, 20 million people have been tested.
“Yes, it is true that in London, it’s not been as fast as elsewhere but we are seeing a rise in cases now. Alas!
“Because we came together as a country, we got the numbers down and I’m afraid some of the muscle memory has faded.”
Challenged over local lockdowns, the PM confirmed what will need to be happen before they are lifted.
He said the R number in those areas would need to come down below 1 – something that appears a long way off.
Latest government estimates suggest the UK-wide R rate is between 1.3 and 1.6 – though that could be three weeks out of date.
The PM told ITV Granada: “We keep all restrictions under constant review, whether in the North West or anywhere under constant review.
“The best way to get the R below 1… and I totally understand people feel things are inconsistent.
“If we can just follow that guidance… then we can get the R down… I ask people to stick with it if you possibly can.”
It comes after infection data today gave the first signs that the rapid rise in new cases in early September may be slowing down.
The Office for National Statistics said there was “some limited evidence” the sharp rise may be levelling off, and stabilising at a higher level of new cases per day.
There were an estimated 8,400 new cases per day in England’s community the week to September 24 – while an estimated 116,600 were infected overall in that week.
That compares to an estimated 9,600 new cases per day the previous week – with an estimated 103,600 people infected at any point in total.
Those figures could suggest the virus is no longer spiralling out of control in England after the Prime Minister brought in new restrictions, including the ‘rule of six’.
But the Office for National Statistics also warned: “The wide credible intervals mean it is too early to say.”
And SAGE issued a warning to people not to be “complacent” as they claimed the virus was likely to still be growing.
SAGE said in a statement: “While there are some early indications suggesting that the growth of the epidemic might be slowing, SAGE urges caution and believes it is too early to draw firm conclusions.
“More data are needed to accurately assess any recent changes in transmission and it is still highly likely that the epidemic is growing exponentially across the country.
“Over the next few weeks, it will be important that we understand this in the UK and do not become complacent.
“Furthermore, while the rate of change might have slowed, if R remains above 1.0, infections will continue to grow at an exponential rate.
“This is currently the case for every region of England and all have positive growth rates, reflecting increases in the number of new infections across the country.”