Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced a public inquiry regarding his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. He has denied any suggestion that he wanted to allow the virus to spread freely and criticized portrayals of partying in Downing Street during the pandemic as “absolutely absurd.”
Johnson was forced from office last year after revelations about a series of COVID-19 lockdown-breaching parties called “Partygate.” He apologized for the pain and suffering caused by the pandemic and acknowledged that mistakes had occurred.
The UK had one of Europe’s longest and strictest lockdowns and one of the continent’s highest COVID-19 death tolls, with the virus recorded as a cause of death for more than 232,000 people. Johnson has faced criticism for alleged indecisiveness and a Downing Street culture that facilitated Partygate.
The former leader defended his choice to delay a national lockdown during a second wave of COVID-19 and his use of the phrase “let it rip” to refer to a possible herd immunity strategy. He also disputed suggestions that financial incentives for people to eat out after the first lockdown caused a rise in infections.
Johnson insisted that he and officials did their best and that his priority was always to save lives and the National Health Service (NHS). He appeared close to tears as he pushed back on claims of indifference towards those with COVID-19, recalling his own hospitalization with the virus.
Relatives of the bereaved have been highly critical of Johnson’s handling of the pandemic. Four women were evicted from the inquiry room after holding up signs reading: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.” A crowd gathered outside the venue heckled loudly as he left for the day.
The inquiry was created to learn lessons from the country’s response to the health emergency. Johnson’s former finance minister and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will also face the inquiry.
Politics, World, Health