| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

UK COVID inquiry: Boris Johnson says he underestimated threat from virus

British former prime minister Boris Johnson gave his most explicit apology for his handling of the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, saying his government had been too complacent and initially underestimated the risks posed by the virus.

In an appearance before an official inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic, Johnson said he took responsibility for all decisions made and he understood the public’s anger after the inquiry heard of government incompetence, backstabbing and misogyny as it battled the biggest health crisis in decades.

Johnson said COVID-19 had first appeared as a “cloud on the horizon” and not the “typhoon” that went on to kill more than 230,000 people in Britain and infect many millions more.

Initially, Johnson said he did not believe the forecasts of fatalities and only read the minutes of the government’s key scientific advisory group on a couple of occasions despite their conclusions leading to the biggest crackdown on civil liberties since World War Two.

“Can I say that I understand the feelings of the victims and their families, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and the suffering,” he said at the start of a two-day hearing.

Johnson, prime minister for three years between 2019 and 2022, resigned in disgrace after a series of scandals including reports that he, and other officials, had been present at alcohol-fueled gatherings in Downing Street during 2020 and 2021 when most people in Britain were forced to stay at home.

The inquiry has already heard damaging testimony about his reluctance to lock down, and how he was confused by the science.

Johnson was said to have asked at one point if blowing a hair-dryer up his nose could kill the virus and suggested he should be injected with COVID-19 on live TV to calm public fears.

  • Reuters