Lockdowns did more harm than good, Boris Johnson to tell the Covid Inquiry when he gives evidence today
Boris Johnson will today warn the Covid inquiry that lockdowns have caused more harm than good as he defends his pandemic decisions.
The former prime minister has come under fire under the investigation for delaying draconian restrictions and continually questioning their impact on the economy.
But during the two days of evidence that started this morning, he will suggest that the inquiry has paid too little attention to the harms of restrictions, which have damaged education, healthcare and the economy.
In written evidence, Mr Johnson said he had a duty to consider whether lockdowns would (and did) “do more harm than good.”
He added: “We were between a rock and a hard place. We simply didn't have any good choices, and it was always necessary to weigh the harm each choice would cause.”
Boris Johnson will spend two days telling the Covid inquiry that lockdowns have done more harm than good
The former prime minister will face a criticism from the investigation's lead lawyer, Hugo Keith KC (pictured)
He will also repeat his denials that he ever said to “let the bodies pile high” rather than order a third lockdown, according to The mirror.
At the time, Downing Street strongly denied making the comment, insisting it was 'just another lie'.
Mr Johnson's former chief of staff, Lord Lister, told the inquiry last month that he heard the former prime minister say the words at a meeting in September 2020.
He will also be questioned about Sir Patrick Vallance's diary entries, in which he wrote about his frustrations dealing with the then Prime Minister.
“(Mr Johnson is) obsessed with older people accepting their fate and letting the young get on with life and the economy going,” he said.
“A pretty crazy series of exchanges,” he wrote, referring to a WhatsApp group including Mr Johnson.
An ally of Mr Johnson told the Mirror: 'He obviously realizes that as Prime Minister he had ultimate responsibility for everything that happened at every level in government and he doesn't shy away from that.'
Tory MP Sir Michael Fabricant said the inquiry at times seemed more interested in “lascivious” WhatsApp messages between ministers and officials than in learning the lessons of the crisis.
And he appealed for fair treatment for Mr Johnson: 'I am a little concerned that the inquiry has drifted towards who swore what against whom, rather than focusing on the lessons learned in case God forbid that we will have another pandemic.
'I just hope that Boris is heard by people with an open mind, rather than the prejudices he has encountered at other hearings in the past.'
Another supporter of the former prime minister said the investigation appeared to have started on the assumption that lockdowns were the right response to the pandemic and that the government had been too slow.
Mr Johnson goes for a morning run near his home in Oxfordshire on the eve of giving evidence to the inquiry
“They only seem to be interested in whether we should have locked up earlier or longer,” the source said.
'There has been very little discussion so far about the incredibly difficult trade-offs involved, or about the constantly changing scientific advice against an early closure.
“If you really want to learn the lessons of the pandemic, you have to – and this is what Boris is interested in – look at everything, and not start with a predetermined story.”
Johnson is expected to acknowledge that the first lockdown of March 2020 was inevitable given the lack of a vaccine or effective treatments against a deadly new virus.
But in his written testimony he said he was “very concerned about the economic damage caused… and whether this would do more damage to the country than the virus itself.”
He is also expected to suggest that the investigation should pay more attention to the origins of the virus. Michael Gove was silenced at the hearings when he suggested a 'significant body of judgment' now believed Covid-19 was man-made.
Mr Johnson will apologize for the government's mistakes during the pandemic.
But he will insist ministers have 'got the big decisions right' – delivering one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world, preventing the collapse of the NHS, developing innovative treatments such as dexamethasone and quickly emerging from the final lockdown.
He will also dismiss claims that he 'switched off' during a break in February 2020.