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Boris Johnson wanted to be injected with Covid to show ‘it didn’t pose a threat’

07 Nov 2023 5 minute read
Boris Johnson interviewed by Sky News during the Covid pandemic

Boris Johnson considered injecting himself with Covid-19 on TV to show it did not pose a threat.

He later said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose a second national lockdown, a senior aide told the inquiry into the pandemic.

There were also further details of the “toxic” culture at No 10, with the inquiry shown messages from Simon Case describing people working there as “mad” and “poisonous” as he prepared to become Cabinet Secretary.

The disclosures came as Lord Edward Udny-Lister became the latest top official to appear before Lady Hallett’s inquiry this week.

In his written statement to the inquiry, Mr Johnson’s former chief of staff said that in the early pandemic the then-prime minister had offered to be injected with the disease live on television to “demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat”.

“It was an unfortunate comment” at a time “when Covid was not seen as being the serious disease it subsequently became”, Lord Udny-Lister told the hearing.

Much of Tuesday’s evidence centred on Mr Johnson’s reluctance later that year to impose another lockdown.

Lord Udny-Lister said in his written statement that he recalled the then-premier saying in September 2020 that he would rather “let the bodies pile high”.

“Whilst this was an unfortunate turn of phrase, it should be borne in mind that by this point the Government was trying to avoid a further lockdown given the already severe impact on the economy and education,” the former top aide said.

Medieval measures

Mr Johnson also referred to “whisky and a revolver” during a meeting with officials in October 2020, and spoke about “medieval measures” to tackle the pandemic, according to notes of the then-chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance shared with the inquiry.

Sir Patrick also complained that Mr Johnson and his then-chancellor Rishi Sunak were “clutching at straws”.

Questioned about allegations of an unhappy staff culture in Downing Street, Lord Udny-Lister largely blamed his predecessor as Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, saying “he was not an easy man to deal with” who always believed his “was the right view”.

He added: “I think that it would have been better if the prime minister had dealt with it perhaps when the opportunity occurred to him certainly in the July of 2020, if not earlier.

“There was a personality clash that was constantly going on.”

People should have been treated “more respectfully”, Lord Udny-Lister said, describing some of the WhatsApp exchanges shown to the inquiry as “pretty appalling”.

In one exchange of private messages seen on Tuesday, Mr Case said he had “never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country”.

Mr Case, before he was appointed Cabinet Secretary, told his predecessor in the role Sir Mark Sedwill: “These people are so mad. Not poisonous towards me (yet), but they are just madly self-defeating.”

He said many “top-drawer people” he had asked to replace No 10 official Tom Shinner “refused to come because of the toxic reputation of his operation”.

Earlier, Simon Ridley, the former head of the Cabinet Office Covid-19 taskforce, faced questions about the role and influence of the official body over the course of 2020.

In his notebook, detailing a meeting in early October, Sir Patrick wrote: “Very bad meeting in no.10… PM talks of medieval measures than ones being suggested.

“Perhaps we should look at another approach and apply different values… Surely this just sweeps through in waves like other natural phenomena and there is nothing we can do.

“As Simon Ridley said final slide, PM said ‘Whisky and a revolver’. He was all over the place. CX (Chancellor) using increasingly specific and spurious arguments against closing hospitality. Both of them clutching at straws…

“There are really only three choices for the high prevalence areas… 1) Do a proper lockdown 2) Use military to enforce the rules 3) Do nothing and do a ‘Barrington Declaration’ and count the bodies (poor, old and BAME). When will they decide.”


In another extract from the notebooks, dated October 25, Sir Patrick suggested that Mr Johnson was often “buffeted” in his decision-making by Mr Sunak.

Sir Patrick wrote: “Ridley meeting – positioned PM meeting as ‘a chance to step back/but avoid making a whole load of decisions that then get undone by Cx’. I asked what PM thinks objectives are ‘what he wants to achieve is a series of mutually incompatible options’. He ‘owns’ the reality for a day and then is buffeted by a discussion with Cx.”

Earlier, Mr Ridley acknowledged that officials working on the Cabinet Office Covid taskforce were “blindsided” by Mr Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

He admitted there was some surprise when the then-chancellor’s plan to encourage people to get back out to restaurants in summer 2020 was first presented.

The inquiry has already heard criticism of the policy from, among others, Sir Chris Whitty, who privately referred to it as “eat out to help out the virus”.

Mr Ridley was asked by lead counsel to the inquiry Hugo Keith KC if he was “extraordinarily concerned” that such a major policy was not brought before the taskforce.

“Things happen that surprise. We were focused on the advice we could give in the context of the steps of the May 2020 document.

“This was announced as government policy. I didn’t spend time worrying particularly about the whys and wherefores of that,” he said.

Put to him by Mr Keith that this was because he was “blindsided by the Treasury and there was nothing you could do”, he said: “Correct.”

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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
5 months ago

Presumably Bojo’s subsequent stint in intensive care – with covid – cured him (and his tory colleagues) of the nonsensical notion that the virus ‘didnt pose a threat’.

Steve Thomas
5 months ago

He never had covid . It was all a blind to garner support/ sympathy from the public

5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Thomas

He had covid. The game was to make it sound worse than it was. Don’t forget, the recent commentary from the enquiry is no rules were followed inside No10 and a 120+ fines, there is no way that place avoided it. He also had to be prevented to go see the queen when the risk was he could be positive considering the state of No10 preventions and people going down with it at the time. The idiot could have gone down in history as something else other than a buffoon.

5 months ago

This is the man, that claimed on 5th of Sept 2019 that he would rather be ” dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit, then asked the EU for a Brexit extension on the 19th of October 2019. Man is a fool as well as a liar.

5 months ago

And the Welsh branch of his fan club in the Senedd still think he was a good leader?

They were laughing at the terrible situation in Italy and thought that Britain would win cos Britain.

The party is still infected with this bonkers strain of rule Britannia.

Barrington declaration, they need locking up as well.

What is Sunak doing these days?

5 months ago

What nonsense!!! We are expected to believe this? The days of the masses being uneducated and ignorant are over Boris.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
5 months ago

He really is from the same embryo as Trump who advised drinking/ injecting bleach/disinfectant to see off Covid. Far from being leaders of nations, these two insane and highly dangerous individuals should not even be at large amongst the public.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
5 months ago

It’s just a pity he didn’t go ahead, it would have been the best outcome for everyone including Boris Johnson.

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