The Prime Minister insisted that he did not want to use such an extreme measure any more than Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
He added that the authorities were getting better at identifying and isolating local outbreaks, although it was important that the power to order national action was held in reserve.
“I can’t abandon that tool any more than I would abandon a nuclear deterrent,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.
“But it is like a nuclear deterrent, I certainly don’t want to use it. And nor do I think we will be in that position again.”
His comments could lead to further tensions between ministers and their scientific experts after the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned on Friday there was “a risk” that national measures could be needed as winter approaches.
Announcing another easing lockdown restrictions in England, Mr Johnson on Friday said he hoped there could be a “significant return to normality” in time for Christmas.
At the same time, he said the Government had given local authorities new powers to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events.
Mr Johnson told the Telegraph: “It’s not just that we’re getting much better at spotting the disease and isolating it locally, but we understand far more which groups it affects, how it works, how it’s transmitted, so the possibility of different types of segmentation, of enhanced shielding for particular groups, is now there.”
“We’re genuinely able now to look at what’s happening in much closer to real time, to isolate outbreaks and to address them on the spot, and to work with local authorities to contain the problem locally and regionally if we have to.”