Boris Johnson denies 'glib attitude towards human life' in COVID row
Boris Johnson has denied allowing COVID “to run rampant” across the UK.
The Prime Minister was challenged over messages sent to his former chief of staff Dominic Cummings which have been shared with the BBC.
The Whatsapp text was reportedly sent as Downing Street debated a “circuit breaker” last October in a bid to fight rising infection rates.
The message from Johnson said: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on COVID fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men, 85 for women. That is above life expectancy.
"So get COVID and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4%) and of those virtually all survive.
“And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford challenged Johnson on the message during Prime Minister’s Questions.
He said: "Prime Minister, you wrote these words whilst our NHS was facing the darkest moment in its history.
"While doctors and nurses were fighting to contain the pandemic, the PM was actively pushing for the virus to be allowed to run rampant through our towns and cities.
“The Prime Minister was willing, in his own words, to allow the bodies to pile high.
“On October 15th 2020, 60,000 people had already died.”
Johnson did not deny the conversation but said Blackford was guilty of “grossly mischaracterising” what had been said.
The Prime Minister – who is self-isolating after being identified as a contact of the recently COVID-infected health secretary Sajid Javid - told MPs: “I think what everybody in this country understands is that the decisions that we had to take at that time were incredibly difficult.
"And of course this in no way detracts from the grief and the suffering of those who have lost loved ones to COVID, whose families have been hit by the consequences of that disease.
“A lockdown also causes immense suffering and loss of life chances and loss of health and to mental health. And in due course he knows very well there will be a chance to look at all of this in a full public inquiry.”
Blackford said the inquiry needed to start immediately: “Such a glib attitude towards human life is indefensible, the Prime Minister is simply not fit for office.
“The only way to get to the full truth over this UK government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic is for this cabal to be made to answer under oath.
“So will the Prime Minister confirm that, in the interests of public health and confidence, the COVID inquiry will begin immediately and commit to appearing at the inquiry himself under oath, before any general election is called?”
The Prime Minister said the inquiry couldn’t happen “in the middle of a third wave” but that he was “pretty confident that we will be in a much better position to go ahead.”
Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for Johnson to apologise, saying that every over-80 killed by the virus had left behind “grieving families and loved ones”.
Johnson stopped short of an apology saying that “nothing I can say… could make up for the loss and the suffering”.
He said that the government had been forced to make “incredibly tough” decisions.