Back on the political frontline and centre stage once again, Boris Johnson obviously wanted to come to his first news conference after his near-death illness with some good news.
But on the lockdown, the social distancing rules of which millions of UK citizens are becoming increasingly weary and fed up, the prime minister didn’t have any good news to deliver.
So with no reprieve from social distancing rules to announce, he came up with a message of optimism designed to grab headlines. “We are past the peak and we are on the downward slope,” he declared.
This is a prime minister who likes to be the bearer of good news, who in his address on the steps of 10 Downing Street on the day he became PM last year denounced “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters”.
This was “serious Boris”, however, a script delivered with a straight face. No jokes and barely a mention of his new baby, although surprisingly there were no questions about him becoming a father again.
Worryingly, the prime minister doesn’t look back to full fitness and appeared slightly breathless at times. He has a pale complexion at the best of times. But he looked weary, as – to be fair – well he might.
There have already been plenty of hints about a coronavirus peak in recent weeks. The statistics suggest that the peak in deaths was as far back as April 8, in the week leading up to Easter.
Two weeks ago, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said the outbreak was “probably reaching the peak overall in the UK”.
And in a Commons statement last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: “We are at the peak of the pandemic.”
For Mr Johnson’s first coronavirus news conference for five weeks, Professor Whitty was alongside the prime minister once again, along with the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. “Boris and the boffins” as headline writers have called the trio.
But while superficially this was a comeback gig, putting the old band back together, in reality, this was a one-man show.
After an absence of more than a month, it was what the prime minister said that mattered.
Suddenly face masks are back on the agenda, for example. He was firm on no return to austerity, too, despite the current economic blight caused by the virus.
And significantly, on deadline day for Mr Hancock’s 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, Mr Johnson surprisingly announced that the latest figure had showing a unexpectedly big rise from 52,000 to 81,000.
Could the government hit the target after all? Not according to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, on Sky News earlier. Was that managing expectations or part of a clever propaganda plan?
Tantalisingly, Mr Johnson promised the lockdown-weary public a “comprehensive plan” next week, on how to get the economy moving, get children back to school and make travel to work and life in the workplace safer.
These will be decisions that will define his premiership, potentially even more than Brexit.
Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick briefed the Cabinet ahead of this news conference and throughout this crisis the PM and Cabinet ministers have stressed the importance on relying on the medical and scientific advice in fighting the virus.
But as Margaret Thatcher famously declared more than 30 years ago: “Advisers advise and ministers decide.”
So Boris Johnson has some tough decisions to make between now and his “comprehensive plan” next week. But he will be hoping he can announce some good news.