Boris Johnson wanted to be injected with Covid to show 'it didn't pose a threat', the Covid inquiry heard today. ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has the latest
Boris Johnson considered injecting himself with Covid-19 on TV to show it did not pose a threat – and later said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose a second national lockdown, a senior aide told the inquiry into the pandemic.
There were also further details of the “toxic” culture at No 10, with the inquiry shown messages from Simon Case describing people working there as “mad” and “poisonous” as he prepared to become Cabinet Secretary.
The disclosures came as Lord Edward Udny-Lister became the latest top official to appear before Lady Hallett’s inquiry this week.
In his written statement to the inquiry, Mr Johnson’s former chief of staff said that in the early pandemic the then-prime minister had offered to be injected with the disease live on television to “demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat”.
“It was an unfortunate comment” at a time “when Covid was not seen as being the serious disease it subsequently became”, Lord Udny-Lister told the hearing.
Much of Tuesday’s evidence centred on Mr Johnson’s reluctance later that year to impose another lockdown.
Lord Udny-Lister said in his written statement that he recalled the then-premier saying in September 2020 that he would rather “let the bodies pile high”.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp messages sent by members of the devolved Welsh government may have been deleted during the coronavirus pandemic, Wales' first minister has admitted.
Labour's Mark Drakeford told First Ministers Questions in the Senedd that many government staff "had devices with deletion instructions already on them" during the pandemic and this advice only ceased when it became clear the inquiry would want them.
After it was revealed at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry last week that the "disappearing messages" function was turned on by a key aide in a WhatsApp group involving ex-PM Boris Johnson, Mr Drakeford was asked whether he could be sure the same had not happened in Wales.
He said: "During the Covid period itself, many colleagues working for the Welsh government would have had devices with deletion instructions already on them.
"And those things may have remained on their phones, because at that point absolutely nobody was focused on whether those messages might be required at some future distant point."
But he said his government made an "early decision" to disclose all documents requested by the inquiry, including WhatsApp messages.
"So as soon as we knew that the inquiry wanted something, there's no deletion beyond that point," he added.
The first minister insisted that he does not use WhatsApp and would not know how to delete his messages.
But former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been unable to say the same and last week refused to confirm or deny claims she deleted some or all of her WhatsApp messages during the Covid pandemic.
It comes after the UK inquiry’s legal team said it believes the “majority” of WhatsApp messages shared among Scottish Government officials during the pandemic “have not been retained”.
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “Nicola will continue to provide all information requested by the inquiry that she holds and will continue to co-operate fully with both the UK and Scottish Covid inquiries.
“She has recently submitted her third written statement to the UK inquiry, running to around 200 pages, and expects to give oral evidence again next year when she will answer all questions put to her.”
Members of the Westminster government have also been unable to escape allegations over missing WhatsApp messages, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his old boss Mr Johnson both being accused.
Mr Johnson hit the headlines for claiming he had been unable to recover WhatsApp messages sent and received early in the pandemic because a 'security issue' meant he could not access his old device.
The communications were eventually passed to the inquiry after security experts were able to securely download them.
Mr Sunak wrote in his witness statement to the inquiry that he does “not have access” to the messages from when he was chancellor because he changed his phone several times, the Guardian reported.
“What I can tell you because obviously this is a legal process which is going on, is that I’m helping the Covid inquiry fully and very, very expansively with everything.”
Asked again about the messages, he replied: “I think as people will know that this is the legal inquiry, there’s a full process, I submit a lot of different evidence and documentation. I will be interviewed, all of that will be transparent and public.
“And of course I’m helping with all of that, as people would expect. We want to learn the lessons from Covid.”
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