Investigation Boris Johnson takes "full responsibility" for mistakes during Covid

Boris Johnson has returned to the forefront, this time to defend his controversial role during the pandemic, in the special Covid inquiry chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett

Investigation Boris Johnson takes "full responsibility" for mistakes during Covid

Boris Johnson has returned to the forefront, this time to defend his controversial role during the pandemic, in the special Covid inquiry chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett. The former premier assumed "full responsibility" for the mistakes made, but assured under oath that he made the big decisions "correctly."

Johnson initially apologized to the relatives of the more than 230,000 fatalities. "I understand the feelings of the victims and their families and I deeply regret the pain and suffering caused," he said before being briefly interrupted by those attending his long-awaited appearance, which brought to mind his appearance last March before the committee of the Partygate which ultimately forced his resignation as an MP following his resignation as Prime Minister.

"We tried to avoid the loss of life as much as possible and prevent the health system from being overwhelmed," said Johnson, questioned by members of his government teams for his complacency, indecision and lack of leadership, especially during the first weeks. of the pandemic, when he decided to be absent from the five 'Cobra' emergency cabinets and initially resisted the recommendations of his medical team to order confinement.

"The cabinet was more reluctant than I to impose restrictions," Johnson defended himself, assuring that the decision on the first confinement was postponed to March 26, 2020 to avoid "behavioral fatigue" in the population. The former 'premier' assured that the decision to ultimately impose up to three confinements "served to probably save tens of thousands of lives."

Johnson threw the ball over accusations of "incompetence" and the "toxic" atmosphere inside Downing Street. "The balance among my team should have been better," he acknowledged, referring (without naming names) to the prevalence of male advisors. "But I was surrounded by bright, talented people."

A group of relatives of the victims interrupted the start of the hearing by loudly proclaiming: "The dead cannot hear your apologies." In the first pause of the interrogation, another assistant directly blurted out to the former "premier": "You are a murderer!"

Johnson was asked directly about his absence in the Cobra emergency cabinets convened in January and February 2020. "At the beginning of that year, the possibility of a pandemic had not yet jumped into the political world," he defended himself. "Covid was a cloud on the horizon, but it was not clear that it would become a typhoon."

Coinciding with Johnson's testimony, a van sponsored by the group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK drove through the streets of London with a giant sign reading: "Let the bodies pile up." In his written testimony, the former 'premier' alleged that this phrase (supposedly due to his initial refusal to a second confinement) has been falsely attributed to him.

Relatives of the victims have accused Johnson of "trying to rewrite history" and "using lies and bluster" to cover up the mistakes made by his Government. The chair of the investigation, Heather Hallett, also issued a warning for the early leak of part of her testimony to the press to improve the public "perception" of the former Conservative leader's response to the pandemic.

The interrogation initially focused on Johnson's WhatsApp messages between January and June 2020, which could not be recovered due to "technical problems" and which could have contained first-hand evidence for the investigation. Johnson assured that he had not deleted his messages and that they were lost when he had to change phones in 2021 for security reasons.

Asked about one of his messages that could be recovered, and in which he himself acknowledged that the Government's response had been "totally and fucking desperate", Johnson himself responded that those words were his moment "a reflection of the difficulties and of the agony that the Government and the entire country experienced".

The former premier was asked about another message, this time attributed to his former chief of staff Simon Case: "I have never seen a group of people worse equipped to run the country." Johnson again threw the ball away, claiming that he worked hand in hand with people "with strong personalities" and recalling that even in Thatcher's team there was "confrontation and friction."

At the insistence of the interrogator, lawyer Hugo Keith, Johnson acknowledged that the response to Covid should have been activated earlier. "When you hear that an Asian pandemic is going to sweep the world, you think it's a story you've heard before," he acknowledged.

"I was an agnostic," he confessed, when remembering how the Government's medical and scientific team warned him in February 2020 that Covid could cause up to half a million deaths in the United Kingdom in the worst scenario. "There are things we could have done if we had known how quickly the virus was spreading."