Dominic Raab defends Boris Johnson after PM is pictured not wearing mask on hospital visit

The deputy prime minister has defended Boris Johnson, after the PM was pictured not wearing a mask during a visit to a hospital.

“He followed all the advice and all the guidance that he got at all times, I think that’s the right thing for all of us to do,” Dominic Raab told Kay Burley.

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Mr Johnson has been criticised after pictures emerged of him not wearing a face covering at Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland, although images showed that he did wear a mask at some points during his visit.

Asked if the PM had forgotten to put one on, Mr Raab replied: “Like many of us, we take the advice and guidance that we’ve got in different settings and that’s the right thing for us to do as politicians and it’s the right thing for the public to do.”

The PM was at the hospital as part of the government’s continuing push to persuade those eligible for a COVID-19 booster jab to take up the offer of a third vaccine dose.

Matthew Taylor from the NHS Confederation told Sky News it was “unfortunate” that the PM was seen without a mask.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused Mr Johnson of “irresponsibly parading” around the hospital, adding: “Patients and NHS staff deserve better than this.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said on social media in response to a complaint about the PM not wearing a mask: “Please be assured that infection prevention and control remains an utmost priority for our trust.

“The prime minister, Boris Johnson, followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.”

Guidance on the trust’s website recommends that visitors wash their hands at the hospital entrance and “wear a face covering when you enter the hospital until you leave.”

Asked by reporters if the PM had broken the rules, his spokesman said: “During a hospital visit, we always make sure we abide by the rules set out.

“He will have been abiding by the rules in place.”

It is not the first time that Mr Johnson has faced questions about his mask-wearing habits.

The PM was criticised last week for not wearing a face covering while sitting next to 95-year-old broadcaster Sir David Attenborough at COP26.

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