Boris Johnson rejected calls for Dominic Cummings to face an inquiry over his actions during the coronavirus lockdown.

This came during a lengthy grilling by the House of Commons Liaison Committee about the government's response to the pandemic.

The Prime Minister said: "Quite frankly I'm not certain - right now - that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time.

"We are working flat out on coronavirus."

Boris Johnson was asked by Liaison Committee chairman Sir Bernard Jenkin whether the government's "moral authority" had been undermined by the Cummings row.

The PM said: "This has really been going on for several days now - in the media at least.

"I, of course, am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period - this country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.

"We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families."

Mr Johnson said he would not be adding to his previous comments on Mr Cummings and said the public wanted politicians to focus on "uniting our message" and "focusing on their needs".

Mr Johnson said he thought it would be a "good thing" for people to understand what he had been told by Mr Cummings, as he admitted the row over his aide's trip to Durham had been a "very frustrating episode".

Mr Johnson denied that the public are now less likely to abide by restrictions because of the personal lockdown decisions by his chief aide, Dominic Cummings.

Conservative MP Simon Hoare told the PM the nation will be "far less energetic" about obeying future restrictions as "a direct result of the activities of your senior adviser".

Mr Hoare asked what MPs should tell constituents who ask "if other people don't abide by it why on earth should we" because "we know what your views are, frankly Prime Minister, I don't think anybody understands why you hold those views".

Mr Johnson replied: "I don't think that's true about how the British people will respond to the next phases, to how to work the test and trace system, I don't think that's how they responded at all throughout the crisis.

"If, just suppose for a second that you were right, which I don't accept, all the more reason now for us to be consistent and clear in our message driving those key messages."

Mr Johnson said he had seen evidence to prove that some of the allegations made against Dominic Cummings were false.

But asked by Labour MP Meg Hillier whether the Cabinet Secretary should also see that evidence, the PM said: "I think actually that it would not be doing my job if I were now to shuffle this problem into the hands of officials who, believe me, Meg, are - as I think the public would want - working flat out to deal with coronavirus...

"I totally understand public indignation, I totally understand that, but I do think that as I understand things, and I've said what I've said about the whole business, I think it would be much better if we could now move on and focus on the next steps."

He added that he hopes that the two-metre social distancing rule can be reduced and has asked scientists to review it as coronavirus is suppressed, in order to aid public transport and the hospitality sector.

Pressed by Labour's Yvette Cooper on what the advice is for parents who are concerned about childcare if they fall ill with coronavirus, the PM said: "The clear advice is to stay at home unless you absolutely have to go to work to do your job.

"If you have exceptional problems with childcare then that may cause you to vary your arrangements."

Mr Johnson went on to describe the row over Mr Cummings as a "political ding dong", and said: "A lot of the allegations that were made about that adviser were simply not correct."

Boris Johnson said the "brutal reality" is the UK did not learn the lessons of past pandemics in developing sufficient testing and tracing capacity.

Responding to former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the PM said: "We did have a test, track and trace operation but unfortunately we did not have the capacity in Public Health England.

"To be absolutely blunt, we didn't have the enzymes, we didn't have the test kits, we just didn't have the volume, nor did we have enough experienced trackers ready to mount the kind of operation they did in some other East Asian countries, for instance "And I think the brutal reality is this country didn't learn the lessons of Sars or Mers and we didn't have a test operation ready to go on the scale that we needed."

Mr Johnson denied there had been a "concerted effort to move people out of NHS beds into care homes".

Responding to another question from Mr Hunt, the PM told the committee he did not get any advice that discharging hospital patients to care homes could spread the disease.

The PM said: "It's just not true that there was some concerted effort to move people out of NHS beds into care homes, that's just not right."

He set a target of getting coronavirus tests back within 24 hours but declined to say when it would be met, saying he had been "forbidden from announcing any more targets and deadlines".