He was responding to criticism that the UK's contact tracing and testing programme is not working well enough in the face of a surge in cases of Covid-19.
Opposition Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asked the Prime if “the reason Germany and Italy have far lower Covid rates than us” is because their services did work.
Johnson rejected his argument, adding: “Actually there is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world, that is that our country is a freedom-loving country.
“If you look at the history of this country over the last 300 years, virtually every advance from free speech to democracy has come from this country.
“And it is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that it is necessary.”
— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) September 22, 2020
People on social media reacted to Johnson's words with disbelief.
Are you implying that Italians (or Germans) don’t love freedom? ? That’s absurd and silly. The answer is simple: we/our politicians care about safety and think it’s better to have a few rules and be healthy, than to stay without them and die.
— Elena Remigi #In Limbo #The5Million ?????? (@ElenaInLimbo) September 22, 2020
Germans enjoy far more freedom and have a much higher standard of living. Treat their pensioners with utmost respect too, ensuring their pensions equate to a good, well funded retirement.
— Janet (BB Bites) (@jcjumble) September 22, 2020
Germany has had more success than UK in suppressing virus
The Conservative leader was in the House of Commons to set out new restrictions to deal with a surge in virus cases.
They included early closing time for pubs and a resumption of advice for people to work from home, coupled with new penalties for breaking the rules.
“What we're saying today is that collectively the way to do this is for us all to follow the guidelines which we will strictly enforce and get the R (reproduction rate) down,” Johnson said.
The UK is currently reporting around 4,000 new cases a day, while the figure in Germany is between 1,000 and 2,000.
Germany has had more success in suppressing the virus, partly thanks to mass testing and rigorous contact tracing, although numbers are also climbing again.
Italy was the first country outside China to face a major coronavirus outbreak, but has managed to keep infection rates relatively low compared to Spain, France and Britain.