The Prime Minister said the authorities were getting better at identifying and isolating local outbreaks, although it was important that the power to order national action was held in reserve.
“I can’t abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent. But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.
His comments could lead to further tensions between ministers and their scientific experts after the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned on Friday there was “a risk” that national measures could be needed as winter approaches.
Announcing another easing lockdown restrictions in England, Mr Johnson on Friday said he hoped there could be a “significant return to normality” in time for Christmas.
At the same time, he said the Government had given local authorities new powers to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events.