U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that the U.K. has a worse infection rate than Italy and Germany because it is a “freedom-loving country.”
Johnson was quizzed by U.K. lawmakers in the House of Commons on Tuesday after unveiling stricter restrictions in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The measures, including 10 p.m. pub and restaurant curfews and stricter rules on wearing masks, come as the U.K. recorded 4,926 new cases on Tuesday — the highest daily figure since May.
In contrast, Italy — Europe’s worst-hit country at the beginning of the pandemic — reported 1,392 new daily cases, and Germany recorded 1,821, according to the countries’ health officials. Both countries have so far avoided imposing fresh restrictions despite cases spiking sharply in other European nations, including Spain.
Ben Bradshaw, an MP for the opposition party Labour, asked Johnson whether Germany and Italy’s test and trace services were behind their relative success in containing the virus this time around.
“Does he think that the reason Germany and Italy have far lower COVID rates than us, with life continuing more or less normally, might be because they have locally and publicly-run test and trace services that actually work?” he said in the U.K. Parliament on Tuesday.
In response, the Prime Minister disagreed and said the “continual attacks” on the National Health Service’s test and trace service were “undermining and unnecessary.”
“And actually there is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world, and that is our country is a freedom-loving country.”
“If you look at the history of this country over the last 300 years, virtually every advance from free speech to democracy has come from this country. It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that it is necessary.”