Boris Johnson Covid Inquiry live: Ex-PM apologises to victims’ families before he’s interrupted by furious protesters – as he admits ‘mistakes were made’ during bombshell hearing about handling of the pandemic
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Covid inquiry LIVE: Boris Johnson evidence

Watch the Covid inquiry live as Boris Johnson gives evidence in London today:

Government told to plan for more than half a million deaths

Guidance from the end of February 2020 told the government to prepare for more than 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, the inquiry heard.

A report by Katherine Hammond (Former Director of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat), said the outbreak of a ‘severe flu pandemic’ would mean half the UK’s population would become ill and up to 520,000 people could die ‘as a result of Covid-19’.

Ms Hammond added: ‘The scientific advice is to use these numbers for planning’ but added they were ‘not a prediction’.

2020 was a ‘tragic, tragic year’, Johnson tells inquiry

More now on Brosi Johnson’s decisions at the beginning of the pandemic over when to introduce virus restrictions during the ‘tragic, tragic year’ that was 2020.

Asked about whether warnings about ‘behavioural fatigue’ influenced his decisions on restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid, Boris Johnson told the pandemic inquiry: ‘Well, it was the prevailing view for a long time, and it wasn’t just the CMO (chief medical officer) who articulated the concept of behavioural fatigue.

‘If you look at many other meetings, or look at the press conference of March 12, you can see that the CSA (chief scientific adviser) gives a very full description of what happens if you go in hard and early with a population that has no immunity, and then you release the measures, it bounces back.’

He added: ‘And so my anxiety was ‘in the absence of therapeutics and without a vaccination programme, what would happen if we simply went into a hard lockdown early and then had no alternative but to come out’?

‘It was an anxiety, a problem that was very prevalent during those early days.’

Asked if the debate over the concept was important, he said: ‘It’s fundamental because it’s, I’m afraid, it’s what happened.

‘We have to be realistic about 2020 the whole year. That whole tragic, tragic year. We did lock down but then it bounced back after we’d unlocked.’

Johnson rejects Cummings’ claim he spent February half-term ‘relaxing’

Johnson appears increasingly uncomfortable before inquiry breaks for lunch

Boris Johnson is looking increasingly uncomfortable as he remains in the hot seat this lunchtime.

The former PM is making numerous hand gestures and has placed his head in his hands.

It’s worth saying Mr Keith is an experienced lawyer and has clashed with multiple previous witnesses at the inquiry.

Just as Mr Johnson was looking rather tired from the constant questioning, the inquiry chair Rt Hon Baroness Heather Carol Hallett DBE called a lunch break.

Mr Johnson will continue giving evidence at around 1.40pm.

31/10/2023 - LONDON - Lee Cain, former No 10 director of communications, is appearing before the Covid inquiry. Cain, one of Boris Johnson's closest and longest-serving aides, resigned in November 2020 amid anger at the government's handling of the pandemic. Cain explains that he was aware that Dominic Cummings was "kicking the tyres quite robustly" to see the government's plans to deal with Covid, stressing that he was perhaps the only one doing so. Andrew O'Connor KC brings up a WhatsApp message sent by Cummings to Boris Johnson on 12 March 2020. "We've got big problems coming," it says. "Cab off [cabinet office] terrifyingly [shit], no plans, totally behind on pace." Questioned whether he endorses what Cummings is saying and who was therefore failing within the cabinet office, Cain responds: "The point was nobody quite knew who was the point person who should be driving this machine. "If you asked me now who was supposed to be doing that... I couldn't tell you." PICTURE: UNPIXS 31/

Johnson told not too impose restrictions too early, inquiry hears

Boris Johnson chaired his first Cobra on March 2, the inquiry is told.

The Cobra meeting was told that contact tracing for ‘the last two cases in the UK had not been successful’, and that there was ‘sustained community transition’ in both France and Germany.

Mr Keith says there was ‘no debate’ until this point about any track-and-trace system.

He adds the Chief Medical Officer had raised concerns that introducing measures too early would minimise their impact due to ‘behavioural fatigue’.

‘To what extent was your decision-making process influenced by this notion that intervention should not be imposed too early?’ Mr Keith says.

‘If you go in too hard and too early, have no immunity, and then release the measures, it bounces back,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘People get fed up. You have to keep doing it and so my anxiety was in the absence of therapeutics, without a vaccination programme, what would happen if we simply went into a hard lockdown early and had no alternative but to come out.’

He added the advice from the CMO was ‘fundamental’ in the decisions over lockdown, but said: ‘I can’t say I would have gone earlier’ without it.

Boris Johnson: ‘I did what I could’

Referring to notes taken of a meeting by Mr Johnson’s PPS, Mr Keith says: ‘As the PM instead of directing government to respond to the threat of a near existential crisis, you instead warned over the risk of overreaction.’

Mr Johnson says: ‘No, I said when are we going to make some decisions and on what evidence.’

According to the notes, shown in the inquiry, Mr Johnson said the most damage was ‘done by overreaction’.

Bringing up further notes from the end of February, Mr Keith asks: ‘Do you think you did enough?’

‘I did what I could,’ Mr Johnson responds.

‘Reasonable worst case scenario’ was ‘becoming a reality’ by February 26

Picking up on a Cobra meeting on February 26, which the ex-PM did not attend, Mr Keith asks: ‘Were you told that Cobra was told the reasonable worst case scenario was close to becoming reality?’

‘I don’t remember that,’ Mr Johnson replies.

There have been multiple references to various Cobra meetings in February which Mr Johnson did not attend.

Pushed for more detail on what he was told from the February 26 meeting, Mr Johnson says: ‘I can’t answer that question but it’s a very good question’.

Boris Johnson pushed over ‘holiday’ to Chequers in February 2020

Mr Johnson is now being asked about a trip to Chequers during February half-term, 2020.

Mr Keith acknowledges Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street three times during that period, but says he was not given a daily coronavirus briefing until he returned to London at the end of the week.

Mr Johnson tells the inquiry he spent that week phoning world leaders including the Chinese president, and US president Donald Trump.

‘Contrary to some of the evidence there was a lot going on and tempo did increase,’ he said.

Screen grab from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry live stream of former prime minister Boris Johnson giving evidence at Dorland House in London, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Issue date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Johnson treated coronavirus as ‘fairly abstract’

Hugo Keith KC is now discussing the beginning of the pandemic when multiple parts of Italy locked down on February 21.

Three days later, members of Mr Johnson’s team were saying the Prime Minister would need to be briefed on ‘potential decisions’ he could have to make.

They added the virus had been treated as ‘fairly abstract’ by Mr Johnson until that point.

Mr Johnson says the situation in Italy ‘rattled me’, and that ‘I should have twigged sooner’ the scale of the emergency.

Messages show Johnson told pandemic was ‘out of control’ by February 6

Here are the messages exchanged on February 6 in which Boris Johnson was told the virus was already ‘out of control’.

Sky News correspondent Tamara Cohen shares a screenshot of the messages, shown during the inquiry, which demonstrate Mr Johnson replied they ‘need to talk coronavirus comms’.

Protester removed from inquiry is volunteer at Covid memorial wall

One of the four people removed from the inquiry at the beginning of Boris Johnson’s evidence on Wednesday is a volunteer at the Covid memorial wall, the BBC reports.

Fran Hall (second right) told the corporation the group the group knew Boris Johnson was going to apologise, so prepared signs that read ‘the dead can’t hear your apologies’ to take into the inquiry room with them.

She said: ‘The chair told us to sit down, we refused. We were told that we would be asked to leave the inquiry room but still refused to sit down – so we were kicked out.’

(left to right) Kirsten Hackman, Michelle Rumball, Fran Hall and Kathryn Butcher, who were removed from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry as Boris Johnson began his evidence with an apology to victims of the pandemic at Dorland House in London, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Picture date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

Boris Johnson told in February coronavirus would ‘sweep the world’

On February 6, Dominic Cummings told the PM in a WhatsApp group scientists had told him it was ‘out of control now’ and will ‘sweep the world’.

Mr Keith said Mr Cummings said it could be a major communications issue – why didn’t the PM respond and question if measures to stop the spread were needed?

‘When you hear an Asiatic pandemic is about to sweep the world, you think you’ve heard it before, and that’s the problem,’ Mr Johnson says.

‘I was not being told that this was something that would require urgent and immediate action.’

Screen grab from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry live stream of former prime minister Boris Johnson giving evidence at Dorland House in London, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Issue date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Delay in acting over Covid was ‘a natural human response’

Boris Johnson has rejected the suggestion there was a ‘failed mindset’ in Government, but said a failure to act sooner after Covid emerged was a ‘natural human response’ to past health crises.

A short while ago the former prime minister said a coronavirus pandemic was ‘outside our living experience’ and instead the system remembered Sars, Mers and swine flu.

Asked if there was a ‘failed mindset’ by Hugo Keith KC, he said: ‘I think it was a human, natural response of people based on what they themselves seen and observed in their lifetimes.’

Johnson says he was told closing the borders would ‘achieve very little’ in restricting the spread of the virus

The inquiry is now hearing about decision-making over closing the UK’s borders at the start of the pandemic.

‘That is one of the most fascinating things about scientific advice during the pandemic’, Mr Johnson said.

‘Many views changed… but when it came to borders there was an overwhelming scientific consensus as far as I understood it, that [closing the borders] would achieve very little.’

Mr Keith says former Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the inquiry Mr Johnson was ‘unlikely’ to challenge advice on borders because he had an attitude that Covid was similar to ‘swine flu’.

Watch: Johnson asked about Cummings’ comments of an ‘orgy of narcissism’ at No.10

Earlier the inquiry heard messages sent from Mr Johnson’s ex-advisor Dominic Cummings.

Johnson only read Sage minutes ‘once or twice’ during the pandemic, inquiry hears

Boris Johnson has told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry he may have only read minutes from the government’s scientific advisory group ‘once or twice’ during the pandemic.

The former prime minister said he was given ‘summaries’ of the discussions but that ‘in retrospect’ it may have been valuable to hear them in full while he was leading the response to the emerging crisis.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), a committee of scientists responsible for advising ministers on Covid, met hundreds of times.

Asked whether he ever read the minutes as he gave evidence on Wednesday, the former prime minister said: ‘I think I did once or twice look at the – maybe more than that – looked at what Sage had actually said and Sage certainly produced a lot of documentation.

‘But I think that the CSA (chief scientific adviser) and CMO (chief medical officer) did an outstanding job of leading Sage and distilling their views and conveying them to me.’

He added that ‘in retrospect it may have been valuable to hear the Sage conversation unpasteurised itself, but I was more than content with the very clear summaries that I was getting from the CSA and the CMO’.

Lead counsel Hugo Keith KC asked: ‘Did you not think of looking at the scientific horse in the mouth and seeing what was actually said by the government’s primary scientific advisory committee on these issues when you, as now appears to be the case, you became engaged particularly in the debate of behavioural fatigue?

‘Why didn’t you call for the primary material?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I think that’s a good question. I was very, very much impressed by and dependent on the CMO and the CSA, both of whom are outstanding experts in their field and it felt to me that I couldn’t do better than that.’

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives evidence at the COVID-19 Inquiry, in London, Britain, December 6, 2023 in this screen grab obtained from a handout video. UK Covid-19 Inquiry/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT

Boris Johnson: Covid a ‘national disaster’

Covid was to become a ‘national disaster’, Boris Johnson has told the inquiry.

Defending his decision-making in the early days of the pandemic, Mr Johnson said even the term ‘pandemic’ did not alert Whitehall to the scale of the incoming problem.

Rishi Sunak leaves No10 for PMQs… while his predecessor Boris Johnson gives evidence to Covid Inquiry

Rishi Sunak has left Downing Street on his way to Parliament to participate in PMQs.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak departs 10 Downing Street, London, to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Protesters hold photos of loved ones outside Covid inquiry

Protesters and bereaved families are standing outside the coronavirus inquiry in London today.

As Boris Johnson is grilled inside the building, families who were unable to watch are holding up photographs of their loved ones, who died during the pandemic, outside.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Shutterstock (14246339d) Bereaved family members hold pictures of the victims of coronavirus during the demonstration. Protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre as former prime minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing. As former Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing, protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre. Boris Johnson Covid-19 Inquiry hearing, London, UK - 06 Dec 2023
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Shutterstock (14246339b) An ad van displaying an alleged 2020 quote from Boris Johnson, ''Let the bodies pile high'', is parked outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre. Protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre as former prime minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing. As former Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing, protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre. Boris Johnson Covid-19 Inquiry hearing, London, UK - 06 Dec 2023
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/Shutterstock (14246339e) Bereaved family members hold pictures of the victims of coronavirus during the demonstration. Protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre as former prime minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing. As former Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived for a hearing, protesters and bereaved family members gathered outside the Covid-19 Inquiry Centre. Boris Johnson Covid-19 Inquiry hearing, London, UK - 06 Dec 2023

Breaking: ‘We underestimated the pace of Covid’ Boris Johnson admits

‘We underestimated the scale and pace’ of the pandemic, Mr Johnson tells the environment.

‘Was it system failure?’ Mr Keith asks. He says the UK’s scientists were ‘aware’ of the fact case numbers were being substantially underestimated by the end of January, and that there was no tracing system in place by early February.

‘I was being assured that we were in a good place [on track and trace],’ Mr Johnson said.

‘I don’t wish to say we were oblivious because we weren’t’, the ex-PM says.

‘It’s not as though nothing is happening, I think what is going wrong possibly is we are just underestiminating the pace, the contagiousness of the disease.’

Hugo Keith KC: ‘How could a government have failed to stop and think?’

Mr Keith has questioned how Mr Johnson’s government ‘failed to stop and think.

Mr Johnson was telling him about January and February 2020: ‘Everybody, if they stopped to think about it, could see the implications of the data… but I don’t think they necessarily drew the right conclusions in that early phase.’

He says the pandemic was a ‘once in a century event’ that was ‘completely outside of living memory’.

‘It wasn’t escalated to me as an issue of national concern until much later,’ he adds.

‘You were the Prime Minister’, Mr Keith tells Mr Johnson. ‘How could a government have generally failed to stop and think?’

Boris Johnson insists Covid was a ‘cloud on the horizon’ not a ‘typhoon’ in January 2020 – as he defends not chairing initial Cobra meetings about the virus

Mr Hancock spoke to the PM at the start of January, and then again on the 22nd January, the same day the first Sage meeting took place.

He previously told the inquiry he had rung Johnson at least ‘four times’ to raise the alarm over Covid.

Mr Johnson says: ‘I don’t to be frank remember all those conversations but it’smtrue we would ahve spoken on many occasions because we generally spoke quite a lot.

‘In that period, January really to the end of Febraury, Covid was pretty much like and you didn’t know whether it was going to turn into a typhoon or not’.

Mr Keith says there were five Cobra meetings within one month about the emerging virus – did this seriousness not get through to the PM?

‘A cobra is a regular occurrence in government… the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic, which was only declared by the WHO on 12th March, it hadn’t really broken in the political world.’

Mr Keith asks if Mr Johnson was ‘aware’ Mr Hancock was chairing Cobras on those dates.

Mr Johnson says he knew ‘Matt was handling it’ but that he could not confirm he knew there were those Cobra meetings on those dates.

Screen grab from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry live stream of former prime minister Boris Johnson giving evidence at Dorland House in London, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Issue date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Boris Johnson tells inquiry his language was ‘never misogynistic’

A short while ago the inquiry heard Mr Johnson admit his team was ‘too male-dominated’ – but he insisted his language was never misogynistic. Watch the full exchange here:

A fifth of Brits believe government was too strict in pandemic policies – but 40% think policies didn’t go far enough

More than 20 percent of the UK population believe the government’s handling of the pandemic was too strict, a new poll has shown.

A survey for YouGov has found two fifths of the UK believe the government should have taken stronger action, while just a quarter think officials got it right.

Johnson denies he ‘lost confidence’ in Simon Case

Mr Johnson is asked whether he thinks the Chair should make recommendations about the appointments of advisers such as Mr Cummings.

‘At the time I decided it was best to have an atmosphere of challenge with some strong characters giving me advice and I valued that advice.

‘I do think I had access to the best [advice]’, Mr Johnson says.

‘Did you lose confidence in your Cabinet Secretary?’ Mr Keith asks.

‘No, he asked to step aside,’ said Mr Johnson.

Sir Patrick Vallance thought Johnson was showing a ‘lack of leadership’, inquiry hears

Taking an extract from Sir Patrick Vallance’s notebooks, Mr Keith highlights his concerns about a ‘lack of leadership’, as the PM allegedly argued to ‘let [the virus] rip’.

‘I think this is wholly to be expected’, Mr Johnson says, when asked why so many advisers were raising criticism of the PM.

‘This was at a period when the country was going through a resurgence of the virus, we are looking at the October period, and Patrick talks about inconsistency.

‘We’ve just got to face the reality that the virus seems to be refusing to be surpressed by the measures we’ve used so far, we are going to need different measures, we’re coming out of lockdown… of course we’re changing, but so did the collective understanding of the science’.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM â¿" FEBRUARY 21:   Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (L) and Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (R) walk through Westminster on February 21, 2022 in London, England. Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened his cabinet before announcing his plan for "living with Covid". The prime minister said the country's vaccination programme has put it in a "strong position to consider lifting the remain legal restrictions", including the requirement for Covid-positive people to self-isolate. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

‘Thatcher WhatsApps would have been pretty fruity’, claims Johnson

Mr Keith highlights a message sent by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, which said: ‘I’ve never seen a bunch of people less-equipped to run a country’.

He tells Johnson this is not an issue of semantics or clashing personalities.

Johnson defended his team’s record, adding: ‘If you’d had the views of the Mandarin eight of the Thatcher government in unexpidated WhatsApps I think you would have found they were pretty fruity.’

He adds the fact his team was willing to criticise one another was ‘creatively useful’.

Screen grab from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry live stream of former prime minister Boris Johnson giving evidence at Dorland House in London, during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Issue date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

‘They got a lot done’: Boris Johnson defends ‘challenging characters’ in government

The Mail’s political editor reports Johnson told the inquiry he was ‘not alone’ in having to balance difficult characters, but defended his team saying they ‘got a lot done’.

Breaking: Johnson admits meetings were ‘too male-dominated’

Mr Keith highlights comments from Helen MacNamara that the relationship between No.10 and civil servants was ‘toxic’.

Mr Johnson says he was not aware that civil servants were allegedly refusing to come into work due to the working environment.

But he admits: ‘The gender balance of my team should have been better’.

He added: ‘Too many meetings were too male-dominated.’

‘The only easy decision during the pandemic was the vaccine rollout’

Boris Johnson has indicated that the only easy decision during the pandemic was to roll out the vaccines.

He told the inquiry: ‘When it came to the balance of the need to protect the public and protect the NHS and the damage done by lockdowns, it was incredibly difficult.’

Johnson has ‘apologised’ to person who suffered abuse in WhatsApp exchanges, inquiry hears

Hugo Keith says Dominic Cummings’ evidence showed ‘disarray’ in government, and refers to his ‘salacious’, expletive-fileld language.

Mr Johnson responds: ‘I’ve apologised to one particular person who suffered abuse in one of those publicised WhatsApp exchanges, but I would make a disctinction between the types of language used and the decision-making processes of the government.

He adds all his team were ‘under great stress’ and therefore were ‘inclined to be critical of others.’

He says ‘any other government’ facing similar pressures would have had similar issues.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Dominic Cummings, who served as Chief Adviser to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives to give evidence at the Covid-19 inquiry on October 31, 2023 in London, England. Former prime minister Boris Johnson's top advisors will be questioned at phase 2 of the Covid-19 Inquiry over decision-making in Downing Street during the pandemic. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Johnson denies that health ministers were ‘excluded’ from key meetings

Hugo Keith says health ministers were ‘sometimes excluded’ from meetings where public health issues were at stake.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I reject that’.

‘It was right to have endless conversations with the treasury,’ he continued, saying many of the pandemic measures were ‘very costly’.

Boris reveals ‘Cabinet as a whole’ were ‘more reluctant’ to impose lockdowns

Boris Johnson claims the cabinet was ‘more reluctant’ to impose lockdowns and restictions than he was.

Asked about whether the Cabinet was not a place for serious discussion, as Dominic Cummings previously told the hearing, he says this is ‘not true’.

Boris Johnson is asked why he did not read notes from Sage meetings

Mr Keith repeatedly asks the ex-PM why he did not ask for primary notes from Sage meetings when making his decisions.

Mr Johnson says it is a ‘good question’ and says he relied on the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Medical adviser when he was making decisions.

‘In hindsight it might have been [useful] to hear the Sage advice unpasturised, he added’.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry shows Britain's former Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, in west London, on December 6, 2023 to give evidence. Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson will face tough questioning at a public inquiry on December 6, 2023 over his government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, after a barrage of criticism from his former aides. Johnson, who has been accused of indecisiveness and a lack of scientific understanding, is expected to admit that he "unquestionably made mistakes" during two days of grilling in London. (Photo by UK Covid-19 Inquiry / AFP) / XGTY / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / UK Covid-19 Inquiry " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by -/UK Covid-19 Inquiry/AFP via Getty Images)

Johnson pushed on how heavily he relied on Dominic Cummings and ‘innermost circle’ for advice

Boris Johnson is being questioned about numerous meetings he had at the start of the pandemic with his ‘innermost group of advisors’ – including Dominic Cummings.

Mr Keith says he wants to understand to what extent Mr Johnson ‘relied’ on their advice.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I of course relied on the advice I was given but the way it works is advisers advise and ministers decide, and that is what happened.’

Protesters ‘don’t want ex-PM’s apology’

Four people who were removed from Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 Inquiry hearing said they ‘didn’t want his apology’.

They said they stood up as he began apologising to hold up signs that read: ‘The Dead can’t hear your apologies.’

Speaking outside Dorland House in west London, Kathryn Butcher, 59, who lost her sister-in-law, told reporters afterwards: ‘We didn’t want his apology.

‘When he tried to apologise we stood up. We didn’t block anybody. We were told to sit down.

‘We didn’t sit down straight away. One of us said stayed standing, so the rest of us came out in solidarity.’

Watch: Boris Johnson describes how 5,000 WhatsApp messages disappeared

‘Strong arguments’ against going too early on lockdowns, Johnson says

There were strong arguments against going too early into lockdowns, Boris Johnson is telling the Covid Inquiry.

He is now facing scrutiny under the government’s initial decisions during the pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: ‘When it came to the balancing of the need to protect the public and protect the NHS and the damage done by lockdowns, it was very difficult.’

There is more detail on these decisions expected later.

Boris Johnson kicked off an epic two-day grilling at the Covid inquiry today as he fends off criticism of his leadership.

The ex-PM said he wanted to express how ‘sorry I am for the pain and the loss and the suffering’ of victims of the pandemic.

But the session was briefly disrupted as several people had to be removed from the public gallery at the hearing, after they stood and seemingly held up photos of people who died.

Mr Johnson is set to mount a robust defence of his handling of the pandemic, after coming under heavy fire for delaying tough restrictions in the initial phase.

Johnson clashes with Hugo Keith over excess death rates

Mr Keith says the UK had one of ‘the highest rates of excess death in Europe’.

Mr Johnson disagrees and says: The ONS data I saw put us about 16th or 19th in a table of 33.

Mr Keith clarifies he meant ‘western Europe’.

Mr Johnson responded: ‘The statistics vary and I think every country struggled with a new pandemic.’

When pushed about why the UK had such a high excess death rate, the ex-PM pointed to the UK’s ageing population. When pushed to accept that governmental decisions played a factor, Mr Johnson said: ‘I don’t know’.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives evidence at the COVID-19 Inquiry, in London, Britain, December 6, 2023 in this screen grab obtained from a handout video. UK Covid-19 Inquiry/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT

Breaking: Johnson takes ‘personal responsibility’ for ‘all decisions’ during the pandemic

Boris Johnson has told Hugo Keith KC: ‘I take personal responsibility for all the decisions we made’.

Mr Johnson confirmed this includes the speed of the government’s initial response, lockdown decisions, the discharge of patients into care homes, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and the relaxation of restrictions.

Boris Johnson: ‘Unquestionably mistakes were made’

The Mail’s political editor Jason Grove is providing live updates from the inquiry.

Mr Johnson said a moment ago: ‘Unquestionably mistakes were made, and for those I unreservedly apologise.’

He added: ‘We did our level best’.

Breaking: Former PM says he never deleted WhatsApps as he denies ‘factory reset’ of phone

Mr Johnson is being questioned over missing WhatsApp messages on his phone.

‘I don’t know the exact reason but it looks as though it’s something to do with the app going down and coming up again, and automatically erasing all the things between the moment when it went down and the last time it had been backed up,’ he said.

Mr Keith claims there was a ‘factory reset’ of the phone.

‘I don’t remember a factory reset,’ Mr Johnson says.

‘I haven’t removed any WhatsApps from my phone,’ he adds.

Simon Case: ‘PM is mad if he doesn’t think his WhatsApps will become public’

Hugo Keith is reading a Whatsapp between Simon Case and Martin Reynolds.

Mr Case wrote: ‘PM is mad if he doesn’t think his WhatsApps will become public via Covid Inquiry’.

Mr Johnson told Mr Keith he ‘does not remember the conversation’ to which the message refers.

Johnson says government was ‘trying to prevent the loss of life’ during pandemic

Boris Johnson has told the inquiry he and his government spent the pandemic ‘trying to prevent the loss of life’.

He told Hugo Keith KC: ‘What we were trying to prevent was the loss of life.’

He accepted Mr Keith’s assertion that those responsible for protecting the public should be subject to the ‘upmost scrutiny’.

Protesters immediately interrupt ex-PM’s evidence

Reporters at the inquiry say the disruption reported a minute ago was caused by ‘four people in the public gallery standing and holding up pictures’.

They were asked to sit down, and when they refused, were swiftly removed.

Ushers remove members of the public from the public gallery

Hugo Keith KC began by reminding the inquiry of the period in which Boris Johnson was the UK’s PM.

Mr Johnson began by saying: ‘How sorry I am for the pain and te loss and the suffering…’

However he was immediately interrupted after four members of the public in the public gallery stood up and held photos.

One protester held up a poster reading: ‘The dead can’t hear your apologies’.

Chair of the Inquiry the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Carol Hallett DBE asked ushers to remove them from the room.

Boris Johnson is sworn in at Covid inquiry

Boris Johnson is currently being sworn in at the Covid Inquiry under oath.

He said the evidence he will give will be ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

‘It’s the first time Boris has ever been early for anything’

Policing minister Chris Philp joked ‘it’s the first time Boris has ever been early for anything’ after the the former prime minister arrived at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry about three hours before he is due to give evidence.

Mr Philp told Sky News the inquiry should be about ‘dispassionately and forensically understanding what lessons can be learnt’ but that he was ‘sure there are things we could have done better’.

Bereaved families ‘unable to sit in hearing room’

Bereaved families of coronavirus victims are ‘visibly upset’ after being told they are not able to sit in the inquiry room because of a lack of space.

Numerous relatives of those who died have turned out to watch Boris Johnson give evidence, but there simply are not enough seats to accommodate everyone, Sky News reports.

Watch: Boris Johnson arrives early on Wednesday

Watch as Boris Johnson arrived at the Covid inquiry – around three hours before it was due to begin.

Boris Johnson to give evidence from 10am

It’s now less than ten minutes until Boris Johnson is expected to begin giving evidence.

He will be questioned by Hugo Keith KC, the counsel to the inquiry.

Johnson is expected to defend his decision-making over the pandemic.

‘Will they ask the right questions?’

The Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce will be among those keeping a close eye on Boris Johnson’s evidence at the Covid Inquiry today. He has tweeted the following:

Bereaved Covid families slam Boris Johnson as ex-PM prepares to say he got the big calls right

Boris Johnson’s expected claim at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that he got the big decisions right during the pandemic would be a ‘grotesque distortion of the truth’, a lawyer for bereaved families has said.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar, reads a statement from his phone, as he stands members of the Covid Bereaved as well as other core-participants including Long Covid, (left to right) Hannana Siddiqui, Anna Louise Marsh-Rees, Aamer Anwar, Alan Inglis, Natalie Rogers and Craig Court, outside the UK Covid-19 Inquiry at Dorland House in London, where former prime minister Boris Johnson is due to give evidence during its second investigation (Module 2) exploring core UK decision-making and political governance. Picture date: Wednesday December 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire

Aamer Anwar, lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, told a press conference ahead of the former prime minister’s evidence in west London: ‘Boris Johnson is expected to issue an apology this morning.

‘Yet he will claim he saved thousands of lives.

‘For many of the bereaved that will be a grotesque distortion of the truth.

‘In Boris Johnson’s words, instead of solving a national crisis, his government presided over a total disgusting orgy of narcissism.

‘He did let the bodies pile up and the elderly were treated as toxic waste.

‘As a result, over a quarter of a million people died from Covid. They cannot speak for themselves but their families, the bereaved and all those impacted by Covid deserve the truth today.’

Inquiry not able to grill Johnson on early pandemic messages after ‘security concerns’

With Mr Johnson likely to be grilled on the evidence of ex-colleagues, a report in The Times revealed that he has not been able to provide the inquiry with any communications spanning the early days of the pandemic and most of the first lockdown.

The paper reported that he told Baroness Heather Hallet’s inquiry that technical experts have not been able to retrieve WhatsApp messages from between January 31 and June 7 2020.

Technical experts had been trying to recover messages from his old mobile phone to hand them to the inquiry. Mr Johnson was originally told to stop using the device over security concerns after it emerged his number had been online for years.

He then reportedly forgot the passcode, but it was believed that technical experts had succeeded in helping him recover messages for the inquiry.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: ‘Boris Johnson has fully co-operated with the inquiry’s disclosure process and has submitted hundreds of pages of material.

‘He has not deleted any messages.’

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock (14246103m) Former UK Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON arrives at Covid-19 Inquiry Public Hearing ahead of giving evidence. Boris Johnson Covid-19 Inquiry Public Hearing, London, England, United Kingdom - 06 Dec 2023

Boris Johnson arrived at the Covid inquiry today as he prepares for an epic two-day grilling on his pandemic decisions.

The former PM was driven up to the venue in central London nearly three hours before his appearance is scheduled to begin at 10am.

Mr Johnson is set to mount a robust defence of his leadership during the crisis, after coming under heavy fire for delaying tough restrictions in the initial phase.

Welcome to our live blog coverage

Good morning, and welcome to MailOnline’s live coverage of the coronavirus inquiry.

From 10am former Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be giving evidence, which is expected to last for two days.

We will be bringing you all the latest updates as he is quizzed over his role in handling the pandemic.





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