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Covid live news: Johnson says he is ‘reconciled’ to prospect of tighter restrictions soon; South Korea says it is containing third wave

Latest updates: UK PM says ‘it may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks’; South Korea had over 600 new cases on Saturday

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Marr uses one of Labour’s preferred criticisms of Johnson – that he has always done “the right thing a few weeks too late”.

“People have always argued that,” Johnson says. “The retro-specto scope is a magnificent instrument… what we’re doing now is using the tiering system – alas, probably about to get tougher… and we have the prospect of vaccines coming down the track in their tens of millions offering people literally life and hope.”

Marr now goes back into the decisions that led the UK to this point. “The government has taken every possible step that we reasonably could,” Johnson says. “What we could not have foreseen I think reasonably was the arrival of a new variant of the [virus] spreading between 50 and 70 per cent faster.. once we did understand that, we took… decisive action.”

Asked why he didn’t follow SAGE advice for a circuit breaker lockdown, he says: “Scientific advisors have said all sorts of different things at different times and they’re by no means unanimous.. you could have from March onwards closed down all transmission, the government could have basically pastoralised the British economy… however the damage to people’s mental health, the damage to the longterm prospects of young people growing up in this country, the exacerbation of the gap between rich and poor – that would have been colossal.”

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