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Boris Johnson grilled at COVID inquiry knew of Covid as early as January 2020

Boris Johnson grilled at COVID inquiry knew of Covid as early as January 2020

Boris Johnson faced a grilling from the long-awaited official inquiry into the UK’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday, 06 December 2023. The former Prime Minister appeared before the inquiry’s panel of experts and lawyers, answering questions about his decisions during the crisis that led to the deaths of over 170,000 people in the UK.

Boris Johnson’s Government knew of Covid as early as January 2020

Hugo Keith, “Do you recall Matt Hancock repeatedly trying to raise the alarm about covid with you in Jan and Feb 2020?”
He said that the virus, between January and February that year, had been a “cloud on the horizon” and it was unclear whether it would become a “typhoon”.

– PM only read Sage minutes ‘once or twice’
Mr Johnson said he may have only read the minutes of hundreds of meetings held by the committee of scientists advising the government on Covid “once or twice”.

During his appearance at the official inquiry into the pandemic on Wednesday, four people were removed from the public gallery after holding up pictures, along with the words: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.”

The inquiry has already heard from a number of Johnson’s former colleagues and advisers, who have painted a picture of a chaotic and dysfunctional Downing Street operation. They have accused Johnson of being dismissive of expert advice, prioritizing political considerations over public health, and failing to take decisive action to control the virus.

Johnson’s testimony is likely to be the most closely scrutinized of all the inquiry’s witnesses. He will face questions about his personal leadership, his relationship with his advisors, and the government’s overall strategy for dealing with the pandemic.

Mr Johnson accepts personal responsibility for all decisions

covid
Mr Johnson looked on the verge of tears as he described 2020 as a “tragic, tragic” year.

Mr Johnson told the hearing he was “deeply sorry for the pain and loss and suffering”. He regrets describing long Covid as “bollocks”

The inquiry is expected to publish its final report in the next year or two. It is likely to make recommendations for how the UK can better prepare for future pandemics.

During the evidence session, which will continue on Thursday, the inquiry heard varied testimony from the former prime minister, including:

• The government “underestimated the scale and pace of challenge” from COVID – thinking the peak would come in May or June;

• The tone of private WhatsApp exchanges was a “reflection of the agony” the country was going through;

• A denial he was on holiday over the half-term break in February 2020 – as claimed by former aide Dominic Cummings

• Mr Johnson also said he “can’t say” whether he would have “gone earlier” in ordering the first lockdown, but that he took “full responsibility” for the decisions made;

• He offered an apology to sufferers of Long COVID, having described the condition as “b*****ks” in 2021;

• And he stood by Matt Hancock, saying the then health secretary did “a good job” whatever his “defects”.

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