Boris Johnson has denied reports of him saying that he would rather see bodies pile up than go into a third coronavirus lockdown.

Asked if he made the comments attributed to him, the Prime Minister said: “No, but I think the important thing I think people want us to get on and do as a Government is to make sure that the lockdowns work.

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

Sir Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson needed to “make a public statement” about reports he is alleged to have claimed he would “let the bodies pile high” rather than have another lockdown.

Mr Johnson has flatly denied making any such claim.

The Labour leader said: “I think, like everybody reading that, I was astonished to see those words.

“It’s for the Prime Minister, I think, now, to make a public statement about that.

“If he did say those things then he’s got to explain it, if he didn’t, go on the record and publicly explain what was said and what wasn’t said.

“I think everybody will be deeply concerned, not least those all families that have lost someone during this pandemic.”

Downing Street said reports that Boris Johnson spoke of preferring further deaths to a third Covid-19 lockdown were “untrue”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “No, this is untrue and, as you say, he has denied that in his clip (to broadcasters).”

Asked whether anyone else in No 10 made the remark, the spokesman said: “No. All I can confirm is that the Prime Minister did not make that statement.

“I’m not aware of anyone else making that statement.”

Pressed on suggestions that Mr Johnson shouted the comment while in his study and that a number of people overheard it through an open door, the No 10 official added: “We are denying it, that the Prime Minister said that.

“He has made that clear that he did not say it.”