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Boris Johnson says UK's response to coronavirus response shows there is 'such a thing as society'

Boris Johnson delivered the message in a self-shot video from isolation.

3 min read

Britain's response to the coronavirus pandemic shows that "there really is such a thing as society," Boris Johnson has declared.

The Prime Minister made the claim as he revealed that 20,000 former NHS staff have so far answered the call to go back to work during the crisis.

Meanwhile, he said 750,000 members of the public have volunteered to help the health service - three times the original target.

In a self-shot video recorded in 11 Downing Street, where he is isolated after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, Mr Johnson thanked Brits for complying with instructions to "stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives".

He also singled out pharmacists for "not only dispensing vital medicines but also very often reassurance to the customers they interact with".

The Prime Minister added: "Thank you to everybody who’s now coming back into the NHS in such huge numbers.

"Just this evening I can tell you we have 20,000 NHS staff coming back to the colours, doctors and nurses.

“It’s a most amazing thing. And that’s of course in addition to the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help us get through this crisis.

"We are going to do it. We are going to do it together. One thing I think coronavirus crisis has proved is that there really is such a thing as society."

The comments are a reference to Margaret Thatcher's claim in a 1987 magazine interview that "there is no such thing as society".

David Cameron also distanced himself from the late PM's comments during his time in office, declaring in his 2005 leadership victory speech: "There is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state."

Mrs Thatcher later attempted to clarify the remarks in her autobiography, saying her full quote had not been used and that she believed "society was not an abstraction, separate from the men and women who composed it, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations".

Mr Johnson's latest video message came as deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries warned that life in the UK will not "return to normal" for six months.

Ministers have put Britain in lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of the virus by ordering people to stay at home except to shop for essentials, do only one piece of exercise a day, collect medicine or go to work if they cannot do their job from home.

Appearing at the daily Downing Street press conference on Sunday evening, Ms Harries said it would be "quite dangerous" for restrictions to be ended too early.

She said: "If we stop, then all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak.

"So over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review. We will see where we are going.

"We need to keep that lid on - and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal.

"Three weeks for review, two or three months to see whether we have really squashed it. 

"But about three to six months ideally, and lots of uncertainty in that, but then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal."

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, meanwhile said the Government had established a new "national supply distribution response team" - backed up by the armed forces - to help deliver face masks, gloves and aprons to frontline NHS staff.

The Cabinet minister said: "We simply cannot and should not ask people to be on the front line without the right protective equipment. We have a clear plan to ensure that those serving this country at this time have the right equipment."

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Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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