Boris’ ‘whisky and a revolver’ quip to Covid health chief

The Covid-19 Inquiry was shown extracts from the notebooks of former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. In an early October 2020 entry, he wrote of a “very bad meeting” with the then Prime Minister who spoke of “medieval measures” to suppress the pandemic.

Sir Patrick’s notes suggested Mr Johnson had questioned the approach to tackling the virus, saying: “Surely this just sweeps through in waves like other natural phenomena and there is nothing we can do.

“As [Covid taskforce head] Simon Ridley said ‘final slide’, PM said ‘Whisky and a revolver’.

“He was all over the place.” Sir Patrick also described how the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak was “using increasingly specific and spurious arguments against closing hospitality. Both of them clutching at straws.”

Sir Patrick wrote of three options: “1) Do a proper lockdown 2) Use military to enforce the rules 3) Do nothing…and count the bodies (poor, old and BAME). When will they decide.”

READ MORE Professor shares risk of catching Covid straight after having it

In an October 25 extract, Sir Patrick suggested Mr Johnson was often “buffeted” in his decision-making by Mr Sunak.

Handwritten comments by Mr Johnson were shown.

One read: “What do we really achieve by smashing up the economy if we have no idea how many times we are going to have to do it?” He added: “What happened to mass testing? What about the moon shots?” and “How can we get people to self-isolate? Is NHS Test and Trace actually achieving anything?” The disclosures came as Mr Ridley appeared before the inquiry.

He was asked about Mr Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme which encouraged diners to return to restaurants in the summer of 2020.

Mr Ridley agreed with a suggestion by inquiry counsel Hugo Keith KC that his team had been “blindsided” by the announcement of the measure, saying: “Things happen that surprise.”

The inquiry has already heard criticism of the policy from others including England’s chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty who privately referred to it as “eat out to help out the virus”.

Meanwhile, former No 10 chief of staff Lord Edward Udny-Lister recalled comments where Mr Johnson had suggested to civil servants and advisers that he “wanted to be injected with Covid-19 on television to demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat”.

He added: “It was before the Italian situation had really become apparent…when Covid was not seen as being the serious disease it subsequently became. It was an unfortunate comment.” Pressed by counsel Andrew O’Connor KC that Covid was known to be deadly weeks before, Lord Udny-Lister said: “We were still living in the forlorn hope that it wasn’t going to come – it was wrong.

“It’s a comment that shouldn’t have been made.”

The inquiry continues.

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