‘People feel very strongly they don’t have a state mandate’: Boris Johnson rejects Biden’s vaccine mandates, says he won’t do it because Brits ‘love freedom’ and says president to use ‘sweet reason and conviction’
- British Prime Minister Johnson spoke to NBC at the UN General Assembly
- He avoided commenting directly on President Biden’s vaccine mandate
- But he quickly ditched the idea of a vaccine mandate in the UK
- The UK rolled back most of its health restrictions in July
- Johnson has touted his vaccination campaign as the reason the UK is opening up
- Biden’s US vaccine order was met with legal threats from Republican-led states
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected the idea of a sweeping vaccine mandate as President Joe Biden announced two weeks ago, adding that Britons are “great lovers of freedom” in an interview on Tuesday.
Johnson suggested Biden might be better off using “sweet reason and conviction” to convince people to get a COVID shot.
Speaking to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly, the British leader was asked if Biden’s unprecedented order would narrow the gap between Americans’ vaccination rates and those of Brits.
“You have now vaccinated 81 percent of your eligible citizens. We’re at 64 percent. The president has turned to mandates where he has the legal authority to do so. Do you think that’s the right idea?’ asks Guthrie.
Johnson starts by playing out the differences in each country.
“It’s different areas for different people, okay – it’s up to different countries to decide how they want to go about this, this is a very controversial area.”
But he adds: ‘People think it’s very strong that the state doesn’t oblige anything in my country.’
Boris Johnson sat down with NBC in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly
‘We are big lovers of freedom. We had to do it with good reason and conviction. And that works.’
Guthrie asked him what happens when persuasion alone doesn’t work.
‘Keep going. More sweet reason,” Johnson replied.
On Sept. 9, Biden stood in the White House announcing that he was ordering the Department of Labor to require private companies with 100 employees or more to introduce a vaccine mandate or a weekly testing rule.
He also ordered federal government employees to get vaccinated — throwing out a previous testing option.
Biden’s sweeping order would affect more than 100 million American workers. It has already led to legal threats from mostly Republican-led states.
It came as the US reached a turning point after the COVID surge over the summer, though several southern states still lag behind 50 percent adult vaccination rates.
President Joe Biden meets with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. He has a meeting with Johnson at the White House later on Tuesday
The president sent a stern warning to those who still chose not to fire: “We’re running out of patience. And your refusal has cost us all.’
The UK rolled back most of its COVID restrictions in July on what Johnson had dubbed “Friday Day.”
The number of cases in the country has also fallen in recent times. According to Reuters, the number of new COVID infections in the UK was down 17.7 percent on Monday from the week before.
Johnson has credited his UK revival vaccination campaign as “one of the freest societies and one of the most open economies in Europe”.
Last week, he announced that booster shots would be available for the over-50s and first shots for kids ages 12 to 15.
US COVID infection rate begins to decline after summer surge
Meanwhile, US vaccination rates are slowly rising after a dip earlier in the summer
Britain’s COVID infection rate is also slowing, which Johnson attributed to his vaccination campaign
In the US, hospitals in the South, especially in states with largely unvaccinated populations, are still collapsing under the pressure of the latest wave.
Vaccination rates, which had fallen sharply in the early summer months, have started to rise steadily in recent weeks.
Fully vaccinated British travelers will soon be able to enter the US from November, a sign of global confidence in the vaccines.
COVID-19 will also be a central topic at the United Nations General Assembly.
Biden will make remarks for UNGA this morning before returning to Washington in the afternoon.
There he and Johnson will meet for a bilateral meeting. It comes after they signed a new defense pact with Australia to stem China’s growing influence in the Pacific.