Boris Johnson has led his first daily press conference for almost a month.
The prime minister, who returned to work on Monday after recovering from coronavirus, said “I genuinely think, when I look back at what the UK has done, we did the right measures at the right time”.
He said it was ‘completely right’ to make the lockdown period coincide with the peak of the epidemic and emphasised that “when we put in the lockdown it was earlier in the curve of our epidemic than it was... in France, Italy and Spain.”
Johnson told journalist Robert Peston that “the only real comparison is going to be possible at the end of the epidemic”.
“We are learning lessons every day, but I do think broadly speaking, we did the right thing at the right time,” he said.
“Let me remind you that when we made those decisions we were in a situation where it seemed all to plausible that people would not get ventilated beds... and it seemed really possible that people would not have access to intensive care.”
Johnson said the UK had “done very well by comparison to a lot of places around the world” when asked by BBC reporter Laura Kuennesberg about the effect of lockdown on the economy.
Research published ahead of the briefing on Thursday showed that 66% of Britons think the government acted too late in taking stricter measures on coronavirus.
The PM had earlier on Thursday urged Britons to “keep going” with social distancing measures.
Before leading Thursday’s briefing, he wrote on Twitter that he “understands” the public’s “impatience” and “anxiety” regarding the lockdown measures.
He said: “I know how hard and how stressful it has been to give up even temporarily those ancient and basic freedoms.
“But I must ask you to keep going in the way that you have kept going so far, so we can protect our NHS and save lives.”
1/3: I know how hard and how stressful it has been to give up even temporarily those ancient and basic freedoms, not seeing friends, not seeing loved ones, working from home, managing the kids, worrying about your job and your firm.— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) April 30, 2020
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Meanwhile, a former Tory MP has hit out at Johnson’s coronavirus response, describing it as “unacceptable”.
Dr Phillip Lee, who quit the Conservatives in 2019 in protest at the PM’s handling of Brexit, said his government has “failed spectacularly” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Lee, who lost his seat in the 2019 general election when he stood as a Liberal Democrat, told LBC: "The scale of unnecessary loss of life in this country is unacceptable. What angers me most is we could have done so much better.
"We have to ask ourselves why our governance has failed so spectacularly."