7 bombshells from Boris Johnson’s mammoth Covid Inquiry grilling

Boris Johnson has admitted he “underestimated” the menace posed by Covid within the early days of the pandemic in early 2020.

The former PM conceded he ought to have “twigged much sooner” the hazard the nation confronted as he was grilled over his failure to take motion because the virus hit. It got here as Mr Johnson confronted his first full-day interrogation on the Covid Inquiry over the late choice to lockdown the nation.

The ex-Tory chief was briefly disrupted as he mentioned sorry for errors within the pandemic as 4 girls who misplaced family members within the disaster warned him “the dead can’t hear your apologies”. When he restarted giving proof after they had been kicked out of the listening to, Mr Johnson mentioned: “I understand the feelings of these victims and their families and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and suffering of those victims and their families.”

Here are the important thing moments from Mr Johnson’s gruelling day of proof.

Boris Johnson has been hauled before the Covid Inquiry to account for his pandemic failings
Boris Johnson has been hauled earlier than the Covid Inquiry to account for his pandemic failings
POOL/AFP by way of Getty Images)

Boris Johnson missed key assembly when high medic warned about pandemic danger

Boris Johnson didn’t attend a vital assembly when the nation’s high medic warned coronavirus may change into a pandemic. The former PM skipped 5 conferences of the COBRA emergency committee in January and February 2020 because the virus unfold.

Mr Johnson instructed the inquiry it was not clear if it was “going to turn into a typhoon or not” as he defended his choice to not chair a COBRA assembly till March 2020. Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty raised considerations the virus may unfold to the UK at a gathering on January 29, 2020 that Mr Johnson didn’t attend.

The minutes recorded: “The CMO said that the UK planning assumptions were based on the reasonable worst case scenario. There were two scenarios to be considered. The first was that the spread was confined within China, the second was that the spread was not limited to China and there would be a pandemic like scenario, with the UK impacted. The second scenario was plausible but it may take weeks to months.”

Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel, requested Mr Johnson: “The question is why were you the Prime Minister not being told directly this is a virus, which if it escapes China will result in a pandemic. “There is information already that it has a very serious fatality rate and a very serious hospitalisation rate. Why was that? Basic light bulb information not brought to your attention so that you can see the true nature of this emerging crisis.”

Mr Johnson mentioned: “I can’t give you the exact reason why the detail of the Cobra was not brought to my attention.”

WhatsApp warning Covid would ‘sweep world’ days earlier than his vacation

A bombshell WhatsApp exhibits Boris Johnson was warned that Covid would “sweep world” days earlier than he went on vacation. The former PM took a 10-day break through the February half time period in 2020 when he acquired no briefings on the virus.

On February 6, Dominic Cummings posted a stark warning in a WhatsApp group together with Mr Johnson. “Need briefing on corona tmrw. Chief scientist told me today it’s prob out of control now and will sweep world. Will be major comms exercise,” he wrote.

Lord Lister, the No10 chief-of-staff, the next morning on February 7, added: “The COBRA assembly was I feel clear that China might be loosing (sic) it.” Mr Johnson replied: “Yes please. Need to speak about coronavirus comms at 9”. Despite the warnings, Mr Johnson went on holiday a week later on February 14.

The inquiry has heard that he received no emails, Cobra briefings or written papers about Covid for 10 days during the February 2020 half term – even though the first cases of the virus had already been found in Britain. The PM spent the break at Chevening, the grace-and-favour mansion in Kent.

Dominic Cummings has claimed he wanted to work on a book he is writing about Shakespeare, although he has denied this. Appearing at the inquiry, Mr Johnson insisted it “wasn’t a long holiday that I took” and said he returned to Downing Street three times during the break including for telephone calls with President Xi of China and US President Donald Trump.

Protesters and bereaved family members holding pictures of the victims of coronavirus outside the Covid-19 Inquiry
Protesters and bereaved members of the family holding footage of the victims of coronavirus exterior the Covid-19 Inquiry
Vuk Valcic/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock)

Shaking palms and Cheltenham Festival had been errors

Shaking palms with sufferers on the Royal Free Hospital at first of the pandemic was a mistake, the previous PM lastly admitted. At a press convention in early March 2020 Mr Johnson had boasted: “I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients. And I shook hands with everybody you’ll be pleased to know”.

But he instructed the Covid Inquiry on Wednesday: “I shouldn’t have done that, in retrospect, and I should have been more precautionary – but I wanted to be encouraging to people.”

The former Tory chief additionally acknowledged mass gatherings ought to have been stopped earlier. Racing’s Cheltenham Festival passed off with spectators from March 10, whereas Liverpool hosted Atletico Madrid on March 11.

The former PM mentioned the recommendation towards cancelling mass gatherings – that it will end in extra folks crowding into pubs to observe sport somewhat than being exterior at a stadium – ” sounded reasonable at the time”. But, he instructed the Inquiry: “With hindsight, as a symbol of government earnestness rather than just being guided by the science, we should perhaps have done that.”

Not sufficient girls in blokey Downing Street

Evidence beforehand supplied to the Inquiry by the previous Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen MacNamara has beforehand criticised the “macho” tradition in No10. In her witness assertion essentially the most senior feminine civil servant on the time mentioned this led “significant negative consequences” together with a scarcity of thought given to highschool closures or childcare and steering for pregnant girls.

“There was a disproportionate amount of attention given to more male pursuits in terms of the impact of restrictions and then the lessening of the same (footbally, hunting, shooting and fishing),” she added.

Speaking on the Inquiry Mr Johnson admitted: “I think that the gender balance of my team should have been better. I think sometimes during the meeting too many meetings were too male-dominated, if I’m absolutely honest with you”.

Last month it additionally emerged Mr Cummings had known as the senior official a “c***” and mentioned “that woman must be out of our hair” in a horrific WhatsApp message.

Mr Johnson instructed the Inquiry he known as Ms MacNamara to apologise for not calling it out on the time. He mentioned: “I don’t remember seeing it at the time, but I must have seen it because I was on the group. I have rang Helen MacNamara to apologise to her for not having called it out.”

Matt Hancock wasn’t sacked over fears substitute could be worse

Boris Johnson mentioned he considered sacking Matt Hancock however determined he was doing a “good job” and there was no assure he can be “trading up”. Quite a few senior aides and scientists have complained to the Inquiry about his competence as Health Secretary – saying he usually overpromised or lied to folks concerning the actuality of the state of affairs.

But Mr Johnson mentioned Mr Hancock was “doing a good job” in very tough circumstances and he felt it would not be definitely worth the disruption to take away him. “I was aware that the DHSC was under fire from loads of people, but that was hardly surprising, because the country was going through a horrific pandemic,” he mentioned.

He added: “You’ve got a lot of very talented sometimes super-confident, sometimes egotistical, people who are crushed with anxiety about what is happening to their country, who are wracked secretly with self-doubt and self-criticism and who externalise that by criticising others. And it’s human nature.

Boris Johnson supported Matt Hancock, who has come under criticism from all sides for his performance as Health Secretary
Boris Johnson supported Matt Hancock, who has come below criticism from all sides for his efficiency as Health Secretary

“When you’re the leader in those circumstances, your job is to work out what is justified and what is people sounding off and what is political nonsense. And my judgment was that Matt was, on the whole, doing a good job in very difficult circumstances and there was no advantage in moving him as I was being urged to do, that was my judgment.”

He denied Dominic Cummings’s declare that he stored Mr Hancock on as a sacrificial lamb who may take the autumn for the Government’s failings in a future Inquiry. But Mr Johnson additionally didn’t again Mr Hancock’s declare that he urged Mr Johnson in a non-public name to impose a lockdown on March 13 2020 – 10 days sooner than the PM finally did.

The former Health Secretary was unable to offer any written proof of his declare. Asked if he remembered the decision, Mr Johnson mentioned: “I’m afraid I don’t, but it’s been a long time”. He mentioned by the weekend of March 15 he was in “virus fighting mode”.

Regrets over calling lengthy Covid ‘b*****ks’ and ‘Gulf War syndrome stuff

The Inquiry has already seen proof that Boris Johnson repeatedly in contrast lengthy Covid to Gulf War syndrome, a time period referring to unexplained sicknesses amongst veterans of the 1991 warfare.

One doc from October 2020 was highlighted by Hugo Keith KC, the place he had scrawled within the margins that lengthy Covid was “b*****ks” and “Gulf War syndrome stuff”. Mr Keith mentioned: “You were I think less sympathetic to the needs of those persons suffering from long-term sequela, that is to say, suffering from the condition (known) as long Covid. You questioned for quite some time whether or not that condition truly existed and you equated it to Gulf War syndrome repeatedly, is that fair?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Not really, no. The words I scribbled in the margins of submissions about Long Covid have obviously been publicised and I’m sure they have caused hurt and offence to a huge number of people who do indeed suffer from that syndrome.”

“I regret very much using that language,” he provides, and suggests he ought to have thought that the papers can be revealed. The Inquiry heard that he continued to make disparaging references about whether or not lengthy Covid was “Gulf War syndrome stuff” in February 2021 and in June 2021.

Mystery of 5,000 WhatsApps lacking from previous cell phone

A staggering 5,000 WhatsApp messages from Mr Johnson’s telephone from a essential section of the pandemic had been unavailable to the Inquiry. The former PM was suggested to cease utilizing his previous telephone in May 2021 after it emerged his cell quantity had been freely accessible on-line for 15 years.

Earlier this yr the machine was despatched off to consultants to retrieve its contents however Hugo Keith KC mentioned “5,000-odd WhatsApps” had been lacking. The exchanges dated between January and June 2020 – masking the essential interval the ex-PM imposed the primary nationwide lockdown.

Attempting to clarify the state of affairs Mr Johnson instructed the Inquiry: “I don’t know the exact reason, but it looks as though it’s something to do with the app going down and then coming up again, but somehow automatically erasing all the things between that date when it went down and the moment when it was last backed up.”

Mr Keith mentioned a technical report supplied by Mr Johnson’s solicitors steered there might have been a manufacturing facility reset on the finish of January 2020 adopted by an try and reinstate the contents in June 2020, however the former PM denied information of that.

“I don’t remember any such thing,” he mentioned. “Can I, for the avoidance of doubt, make it absolutely clear I haven’t removed any WhatsApps from my phone and I’ve given you everything that I think you need.”