Johnson blamed Welsh Covid rates on ‘singing and obesity’ – diary claims
Boris Johnson allegedly blamed high rates of Covid-19 in Wales during the pandemic on “singing and obesity”.
The apparent comments were included in the diary of Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser.
They were dated September 2020.
Sir Patrick wrote: “Wales very high – PM says ‘It is the singing and the obesity… I never said that’.”
The full context of the alleged comments is unclear.
Mr Johnson was presented with the diary extract by Pete Weatherby KC, who represents Covid Bereaved Families for Justice, at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Thursday, but he was not asked about the entry.
Parts of Wales in September 2020 were among the areas of the UK hardest hit by the virus.
Appearing before the Covid-19 Inquiry as he gave his second day of evidence, Mr Johnson was pressed on diary extracts from Sir Patrick, on his thinking in the second half of the year.
Sir Patrick, in one diary entry in August, said Mr Johnson was “obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going”.
In another entry from October, the top scientist said the then-prime minister was “obsessed with the average age of death being 82”.
‘Let it rip’
Later, in May 2021, Sir Patrick wrote: “PM meeting – Cx (Chancellor, then Rishi Sunak) suddenly pipes up on incentives already in place. Argues that we should let it rip a bit.”
Mr Johnson firmly denied that the extracts represented a glimpse into a government that favoured no national lockdown “until the last possible moment” and instead backed a tiered system.
Pointing to the “the accounts that you have culled from people’s jottings from meetings that I’ve been in,” he defended the measures taken by the Government.
“I think, frankly, it does not do justice to what we did – our thoughts, our feeling, my thoughts, my feelings, to say that we were remotely reconciled to fatalities across the country or that I believed that it was acceptable to let it rip.”
Mr Johnson said that the “let it rip” phrase was in “common parlance” and that he was “representing the only layperson in the meeting”.
Elsewhere in the hearing he said the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was not seen as a “gamble” at the time. He claimed to be “perplexed” at the suggestion top scientists were unaware of the scheme.
Leading Government scientists, as well as former health secretary Matt Hancock, have claimed they were not told in advance about the plan to revive the hospitality industry in the summer of 2020.
He also admitted that the tier system, introduced in a bid to stem cases of Covid-19 during the pandemic, did not work but insisted it was “worth a try”.
Asked about the furore over Dominic Cummings’ infamous trip to Barnard Castle, he described it as a “bad moment”.
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