Boris Johnson has suggested he decided Matt Hancock could no longer be health secretary after admitting breaking coronavirus rules.

Speaking on Monday, the prime minister said Mr Hancock’s actions undermined the government’s public safety message and therefore he chose to bring in a new health secretary on Saturday – a day after the revelations were first reported.

Asked whether the situation went against the message about being “all in it together”, Mr Johnson said: “I read the story on Friday and we’ve got a new health secretary in post on Saturday and I think that’s about the right pace to proceed in a pandemic.”

However, when the affair came to light on Friday, the PM’s official spokesperson told reporters that Mr Johnson had accepted Mr Hancock’s apology and considered the matter “closed”.

Mr Hancock then resigned from his position on Saturday evening in a letter, stating: “We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down.”

He was replaced by former chancellor Sajid Javid.

The PM also said the government was working towards “a return to pretty much life before COVID” on July 19, when restrictions in England are due to be further lifted.