LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 26, 2022: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for PMQs at the House of Commons on January 26, 2022 in London, England. The findings from Sue Gray's inquiry into several alleged lockdown rule-breaking parties at Downing Street, during the time when strict Covid-19 restrictions were in place, are expected to be published this week while Metropolitan Police announced yesterday it's conducting its own investigation into the alleged events. (Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than impose another lockdown, the Covid Inquiry has heard.
The former prime minister has previously denied ever making the statement, both on television and to the House of Commons, after an anonymous source told the Daily Mail in 2021 that Johnson said: “No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
Misleading the House of Commons was at the centre of Johnson’s resignation as a member of parliament.
Giving evidence to the Inquiry, Lord Eddie Lister, former chief of staff and long-term ally to Boris Johnson, said that the government were reluctant to initiate another lockdown in autumn 2020.
In his statement, Lord Lister said: “In September 2020, the R number was rising. A circuit breaker was proposed in response to this increase and the health secretary was pushing hard for this to take place.
“The opposition to another lockdown was intense.”
He says that when presented with the prospect of a circuit breaker lockdown, he heard Johnson say “let the bodies in pile high” during a meeting in September 2020.
“Whilst this was an unfortunate turn of phrase, it should be born [sic] in mind that by this point the government was trying to avoid a further lockdown given the already severe impact on the economy and education,” he added.
Boris Johnson said we should 'let the bodies pile high' rather than go into a lockdown during the pandemic
Lister also commented of the chaotic nature of No 10 at the time as well as the “toxic culture”, an issue previously mentioned by former senior civil servant Helen Macnamara.
Lister said: “Some of the personalities made it very, very toxic... Dominic Cumming’s relationship with other people had become very strained.”
The Inquiry also heard that the prime minister, who also asked if you could kill Covid by blowing a hairdryer up your nose, would have been “willing to inject himself” with coronavirus as he was so sceptical Covid-19 was a threat.