Boris Johnson has denied saying he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than have another Covid lockdown.

The prime minister on Monday rebuffed newspaper allegations that he had made the comments to colleagues in October, just prior to England’s second national lockdown.

The Daily Mail reported Mr Johnson told a Number 10 meeting at the time: “No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

But, asked if he had ever made those remarks, the prime minister said: “No.

“The important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a government is to make sure that the lockdowns work and they have.

“I really pay tribute to the people of this country, this whole country of ours, that have really pulled together and – working with the vaccination programme – we’ve got the disease under control.

“The number of deaths, the number of hospitalisations, are currently very low.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ve got it totally licked, it doesn’t mean that Covid is over.

“We’ve got to be realistic about that. Unfortunately there probably will be another wave of the disease.

“But I think the vaccination programme has now been so massive – 33.6 million people vaccinated, the 44 year olds now coming forward to be vaccinated, 95% of people over 50 already offered a jab.

“We’ve built up what I think are some pretty robust fortifications against the next wave.

“We’ll have to see how strong they really are in due course.

“But in the meantime, everybody should come forward and get your get your vaccine when you’re asked.”

The Daily Mail reported Mr Johnson’s alleged comments were made at the end of October as the UK was hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.

According to the newspaper, the prime minister was given a warning by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove that – without new restrictions – soldiers would be needed to guard hospitals overrun with Covid patients.

Mr Johnson agreed to fresh measures but also vented his frustration during the meeting, said the Daily Mail’s account of the meeting.

On 31 October last year, the prime minister announced a month-long lockdown in England throughout November.