- Former Prime Minister told the Covid Inquiry he had to balance options in 2020
- He said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that earlier action could have prevented lockdown
- Johnson brushed aside suggestions he was ‘pushed into’ ordering a lockdown
Boris Johnson has told the Covid Inquiry he had a ‘duty’ to weigh up whether lockdowns would do more harm than good.
The former PM has come under fire for delaying decisions to impose draconian restrictions during the pandemic, and for constantly questioning the impact on the economy.
But, in written evidence to the inquiry, Mr Johnson said he had to balance the competing needs of the country at a time when there were ‘no good choices’.
And he said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that earlier action by the Government could have prevented the need for a lockdown.
Mr Johnson brushed aside suggestions he had been ‘pushed into’ ordering the first lockdown in March 2020, but acknowledged it had weighed heavily on him.
In written evidence to the Covid Inquiry, Mr Johnson said he had to balance the competing needs of the country at a time when there were ‘no good choices’
He brushed aside suggestions he had been ‘pushed into’ ordering the first lockdown in March 2020, but acknowledged it had weighed heavily on him
Mr Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings savaged him this week, caricaturing him as an indecisive ‘trolley’
‘It is true that I have reflected (no doubt out loud and no doubt many times) about whether the lockdowns would do (and did do) more harm than good,’ he said.
‘I believe it was the duty of any pragmatic and responsible leader to have such a debate, both with himself and with colleagues.
‘We were between a rock and a hard place. We simply had no good choices, and it was necessary at all times to weigh up the harms that any choice would cause’.
Mr Johnson said he was ‘very worried about the economic harm’ caused by the stay at home order, and questioned whether it would ‘do more damage to the country than the virus itself’.
But he added: ‘I always attached the highest priority to human life.’
Mr Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings savaged him this week, caricaturing him as an indecisive ‘trolley’ who careered from one side of the argument to the other in Downing Street.
But Mr Cummings faced criticism himself for poisoning the Government’s response after the inquiry published messages revealing his foul-mouthed and misogynistic attacks on senior figures battling against the pandemic.
Mr Johnson’s statement suggests he will offer a robust defence when he appears before the inquiry next month, pointing out that experts were giving wildly different scientific advice as the pandemic unfolded.
‘It also indicates that he will hit back at claims that he was too slow to grip the issue.
The inquiry has heard criticism that he left the then-health secretary Matt Hancock to chair early meetings of the Cobra emergency committee in January and February of 2020. But the former prime minister said: ‘I am asked whether earlier interventions could have avoided the need for a national lockdown. I suppose it is possible, but I cannot think what they might have been (short of a vaccine or drugs, which we did not have) and I think it highly unlikely.’
Mr Johnson said he had acted quickly when experts warned in mid-March that modelling showed Covid would ‘overwhelm the NHS unless more was done’.
He said he announced that all non-essential contact should cease two days after receiving the warning, with a full lockdown imposed a week later.