Boris Johnson has batted away concerns about his health following his own brush with Covid-19 as “sinister disinformation”.
Rumours swirled in the summer that the Prime Minister would not complete a full-term in office after claims from top aide Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law that he was planning to stand down early next year.
Sir Humphry Wakefield had reportedly suggested Mr Johnson was on the way out because he was struggling in the wake of his own recovery from Covid-19, having been admitted to intensive care for his symptoms during the first wave of the illness in April.
In an interview with BBC South, the Conservative Party leader branded the speculation untrue and said he was feeling far healthier since working to shed the pounds after contracting the virus.
Mr Johnson, who has since unveiled a national campaign targeting bulging waistlines, said the answer was to “eat less” and “take more exercise”, adding: “That is one of the things we should all be doing to take the pressure off the NHS.”
In a series of regional interviews with the BBC, the Prime Minister:
– denied that the variety of different local lockdown rules were confusing;
– claimed no sector was “unviable” following the Covid shock to the economy;
– argued ministers were doing “everything we can” to ensure university students could spend Christmas with their families.
The Prime Minister this week had to apologise after getting muddled when trying to explain what the latest social restrictions were for people in the North East of England.
Asked on BBC Look North (Yorkshire) how the public could be expected to follow the rules when the Prime Minister did not understand all the variations, he said he thought “people do understand” the area-by-area restrictions.
In Liverpool, local leaders wanted the restrictions to go further than they did on Thursday while the independent Mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston, said they were over zealous.
Mr Johnson said: “I think we have done everything in our power to control this virus.
“A lot of people are criticising the Government for applying too stringent a lockdown in places … a lot of people feel we could be doing more.
“It’s a very tough balance to strike and I can see why people feel frustrated.”
Mr Johnson used his interview with BBC Look East (West) to claim there was “no sector” his administration regarded as “non-viable”.
His comments come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week unveiled his job support scheme, which will subsidise a percentage of the wages of workers returning part-time to “viable” jobs as the Treasury prepares to wind down the furlough scheme.
He repeated Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s assertion this week that efforts would be made to get students home for Christmas.
More than 50 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of coronavirus as thousands of students return to campus.
A surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate in their halls at some universities – including Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow University.
Mr Johnson told BBC Yorkshire and East Lincolnshire: “I think most students are doing a huge amount to stop the spread.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure students get back safely home for Christmas.”