Boris Johnson expected to apologise at inquiry over 'mistakes' made during Covid

Boris Johnson will appear at the inquiry as the three-year investigation into the handling of the pandemic continues

Wednesday and Thursday next week are shaping up to be the most high profile days of the Covid Inquiry so far.

Baroness Hallet's three-year forensic investigation into the handling of the pandemic will hear from former prime minister Boris Johnson, specifically on the decisions made by his government in the build up to and during the first national lockdown in March 2020.

Mr Johnson has already been the subject of fierce criticism by some former aides and advisors about his decision making and attention to statics, partially in early 2020 as Covid started to take it's grip on the nations. 

Next week will be his chance to reply. He has already submitted a witness statement to the inquiry, which is likely to be released after he has given evidence, and parts have been leaked to the Times newspaper.

The paper says that Mr Johnson will say the government “unquestionably made mistakes” in his handling of the pandemic but that decisions he took, including ordering three lockdowns in England, ended up saving “tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives”.

The former PM's spokesperson says: "Boris Johnson will be at the Covid Inquiry next week and is looking forward to assisting the Inquiry with its important work."

But they also aren't denying that the former PM will apologise during that evidence session.

It is likely that Mr Johnson will also look to what he sees as the successes of the pandemic response, especially the vaccine rollout, ending the third lockdown when he did, and not going into lockdown over the Omicron strain of the virus at the end of 2021.

Mr Johnson is likely to face tough questions in a variety of areas including decision-making early on in March 2020 when Covid started to arrive in the UK and he didn't attend a series of emergency government Cobra meetings. He will also face questions about the speed of the first lockdown and whether going into lockdown earlier could have saved lives.

Baroness Hallett is leading the Covid inquiry Credit: James Manning/PA

Some government scientists and other minister have already told the inquiry that the government was too slow to respond at the start and an earlier lockdown would have made a difference. Many have said that has become easier to see in hindsight. 

Mr Johnson's style and management of Downing Street is also likely to come in for questioning. This week the inquiry heard from a host of former ministers who were involved in making decisions during the pandemic, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Mr Hancock painted a picture of a "toxic" Number 10 embroiled with "deep unpleasantness".

When Mr Johnson takes the oath and starts to give evidence on Wednesday at the inquiry, he is likely to try and show that he has regrets, but he will also want to stand up for his character and decisions after facing so much criticism from some of his former advisors and ministers who've already given evidence. 

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