Eccentric Boris Johnson has acknowledged that he “underestimated” the danger posed by the coronavirus, admitting that “mistakes have undoubtedly been made” in handling the pandemic. Although he clarified that “at that time everyone did what they could.” After a period away from the spotlight, the former prime minister once again made headlines at the start of his statement before the official investigation into the pandemic, led by former judge Heather Hallett. The former conservative leader was accused by other witnesses in this investigation of advocating allowing the elderly to die, not understanding scientific graphs and managing incompetence and chaos.
At the start of his testimony, Johnson apologized for the “pain, loss and suffering” experienced by victims of Covid-19 and, at one point, even fought back tears as he spoke of the “sad, terrible year.” Many of the relatives of those affected by the coronavirus appeared at the doors of the Court. Four people got in and stood as the former Tory leader gave evidence with signs saying “the dead can’t hear your apologies” before being ushered out by security staff.
“Inevitably, in the process of trying to manage a very difficult pandemic where we have to balance the staggering harms at every end of the decision, we may have made mistakes,” Johnson said. “Inevitably, we failed in some things. But I think we did the best we could before,” he added.
In December 2019, Johnson achieved an absolute majority with which he was able to end the Brexit negotiations. But his criticized management in the face of the health crisis and the Partygate scandal ended his career. In the summer of 2022, he resigned as prime minister under pressure from his own ranks and a year later he left his seat in Westminster after a commission concluded that he had deliberately lied to Parliament when , in the midst of a controversy between the parties during the imprisonment, he repeatedly said that the rules were followed.
Throughout his five-hour appearance – which continues on Thursday – Johnson apologized for the “pain and anger” he had caused long-term Covid sufferers by claiming the symptoms were “nonsense”. and comparable to the “Gulf War syndrome.
Questioned by the lawyer Hugo Keith, he assured that he “takes responsibility” for the decisions made, such as the date of the first imprisonment, March 23, 2020 – which other witnesses said was too late -, and the lack of care protection. houses. He also acknowledged that, at the beginning of the epidemic, between January and February 2020, neither he nor his team “gave sufficient credibility” to the scientific planning of deaths nor did they understand the real danger posed by Covid-19.
He admitted that his “mentality” at the time, “like the mentality of most ministers and officials in Whitehall (where the main government buildings are located in London), did not register the level of alarm it should have “, thus defending himself when asked about his absence in up to five meetings of the Cobra emergency committee in early 2020.
Johnson argued that “people do not compute the implications of the numbers”, based on what has already happened in countries such as China and Italy, and it was not presented to him “until later as a matter of national concern”. « We should have realized; We should have done this, in general, much earlier. “I should have realized,” he said.
Confronted with previous testimony that he hesitated before imposing incarceration, Johnson denied that he intended to “test” this possible new policy (in reference to incarceration) and weigh “the arguments for and against .” He said he was “not sure” if his decisions led to excessive deaths in the United Kingdom – one of the most affected countries in Europe, with 232,112 certified deaths – and noted that the fact that in the country there are ” more elderly and more. population.”
The former prime minister, who has been accused of incompetence by former colleagues such as his adviser Dominic Cummings, also denied that he took a “long” vacation period in February 2020 and assured that he was working privately. He admitted that he made the mistake of appearing on television shaking hands with Covid patients but explained that his goal was to show encouragement about the virus, for which he himself was admitted in April 2020.
At another point during the interrogation, the former British chief admitted that his close government team during the pandemic was “very male-dominated,” but rejected accusations from some senior officials that the environment “toxic” and that it is detrimental to management. . “The gender balance could be better,” she agreed, explaining that it would be better to include more women in the meetings.
Asked about the offensive and sexist language used in WhatsApp messages between him and his circle, especially his current nemesis Cummings, Johnson maintained that it was important to maintain a “challenging” atmosphere, rather than a culture “of respect” without critical opinions.
After Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who was the head of the Economy during the pandemic, is expected to appear before the former judge in the coming days. The official investigation, which may last for years, will not identify the perpetrators, but will issue recommendations for the future, which the Executives are not obliged to adopt.