Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the Covid inquiry he underestimated the scale and the challenge posed by the pandemic.
His two-day evidence session is part of the second round of public hearings, which is focusing on the response of the government and how ministers made decisions.
What is a public inquiry?
Public inquiries respond to “public concern” about events. Established and funded by government, they are led by an independent chair.
Inquiries can demand evidence and compel witnesses to attend.
At the time, he said the government’s response would be “under the microscope”.
Who is leading the Covid inquiry and how does it work?
- resilience and preparedness
- core UK decision-making and political governance
- the impact of Covid on healthcare systems
- vaccines, therapeutics and antiviral treatment
- the care sector
- government procurement and PPE
- the government’s businesses and financial responses
- health inequalities
- education, children and young people
- other public services
There is no specific timescale for how long the inquiry will last.
What is the second round of public hearings covering?
What did Boris Johnson say to the inquiry?
The inquiry has already heard from government officials and advisers, academic experts and representatives of bereaved families, many of whom were extremely critical of the way Mr Johnson and senior ministers made decisions.
His comments were interrupted by protesters, who were ordered to leave the room. Some members of bereaved families held up pieces of paper reading: “The dead can’t hear your apologies.”
Mr Johnson admitted mistakes were made, and that “there were unquestionably things we should have done differently”. He said he took “personal responsibility for all decisions made”. And ministers had done their “level best” in difficult circumstances.
Who else has given evidence during the second round of hearings?
He said he regretted the disastrous handling of his infamous trip to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown, but denied that his actions had damaged public trust.
Former aide Lee Cain told the inquiry that the pandemic was the “wrong crisis” for Mr Johnson’s “skill set”.
Who gave evidence during the first public hearings?
The first public hearings, linked to the UK’s resilience and preparedness, took evidence from 69 independent experts and former and current government officials and ministers.
Prof Whitty, his predecessor Prof Dame Sally Davies, and Sir Patrick Vallance also gave evidence during the first hearings.
When will the inquiry publish conclusions?
The public hearings for the third area of examination – the impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems across the UK – are expected to run for 10 weeks from autumn 2024.
How can the public get involved?
Members of the public can share their experiences through the inquiry’s Every Story Matters project.
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