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London, July 25, 2020
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted that his government did not understand coronavirus during the "first few weeks and months" of the outbreak in the country, adding that it could have handled the crisis "differently".
Speaking to the BBC to mark the first anniversary of his entering Downing Street, Johnson said on Friday: "We didn't understand (the virus) in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months.
"And I think, probably, the single thing that we didn't see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person.
"I think it's fair to say that there are things that we need to learn about how we handled it in the early stages... There will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened.
"Maybe there were things we could have done differently, and of course there will be time to understand what exactly we could have done, or done differently."
The UK went into full lockdown in late March, which critics have said that was too late and cost lives.
Johnson told the BBC that these were still "very open questions as far as (scientists) are concerned, and there will be a time, obviously, to consider all those issues".
He said this was in addition to increased testing and tracing and more procurement of personal protective equipment, adding: "What people really want to focus on now is what are we doing to prepare for the next phase.
"We mourn every one of those who lost their lives and our thoughts are very much with their families. And I take full responsibility for everything that government did."
The Prime Minister, who was himself placed in intensive care in April after contracting coronavirus, said in the BBC interview that he would "very soon" set out new measures to deal with obesity, seen as an added risk factor for patients.
On Friday, the government announced that 30 million people in England would be offered a flu vaccine this year, to reduce pressure on the NHS in case of a surge in coronavirus infections during the autumn and winter.
Speaking to the BBC, Johnson reminisced about first entering No 10 as Prime Minister on July 24, 2019, saying it "was very exciting, and everybody seemed to be in a very good mood" and "happy, upbeat".
He added that coronavirus had caused many "difficulties" since then.
The UK has so far reported a total of 299,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 45,762 deaths.
After accusations of the government of "mishandling" the crisis, Johnson last week promised an "independent" inquiry into the pandemic, but no details have been given of its scope or timing.