The Times reported that the prime minister argued lockdowns were “mad” and that he would rather “let it rip” than close down the economy again as the restrictions would cause businesses to close and people to lose their jobs.
It came during an intense debate in government about whether to impose a second lockdown, the report said.
In the same month, Johnson decided to ignore a plea from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to impose a two week “circuit breaker” lockdown in September before being forced to U-turn weeks later and impose a November shutdown.
No.10 refused to deny that during the debates in September on a second lockdown, Johnson told aides he would rather let Covid “rip”.
The PM’s official spokesperson told reporters: “I’ve seen the various reports and speculation which distort the actions of the prime minister.
“At all times we’ve been focused on saving lives and livelihoods.”
Asked twice further to deny the quote, the spokesperson refused.
It came after Johnson did deny that he said in October: “No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
Asked whether the PM would repeat that denial under oath, the spokesperson said: “That’s very much in the realms of extreme hypothetical.
“I think the prime minister was very clear on this yesterday, as was I, as were a number of others.
“He didn’t say it and this is untrue.”
It came as Johnson told the Cabinet that “we are not out of the woods yet” in the pandemic due to concerns over new coronavirus variants.
A No.10 statement said: “Cabinet concluded with an update on the pandemic.
“The PM reiterated that the data continues to look good but warned that we are not out of the woods yet as variants of concern continue to pose a threat.
“The PM said that while the road ahead looks positive, there will still be challenges and this government will continue to take tough decisions where necessary to protect both lives and livelihoods.”