Boris Johnson says ‘lot of nonsense’ talked about No 10 lockdown parties

PM also agrees with view that some Covid rules appear ‘inhumane’ in retrospect

Peter Walker

Boris Johnson has agreed with the view of one of his minister’s that some Covid regulations appeared “inhumane” in retrospect, while arguing it was impossible to rule out another lockdown in the future.

In an interview with GB News conducted by two backbench Tory MPs, Philip Davies and Esther McVey, Johnson also argued that “a lot of nonsense” had been said about lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Davies and McVey, both lockdown sceptics, asked the prime minister about comments on Monday by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, who said some lockdown rules had been “unkind and inhumane”.

Asked if he agreed, Johnson said: “I do. I do. And I think that some of them – I understand why people feel that, and I think people felt that particularly the loss of the ability to see their loved ones in care homes, or to meet properly for funerals. I mean, it was just appalling, to say nothing of the loss of religious services that matter so much to people’s spirit. So, I totally understand that.”

Questioned about the possibility of a full lockdown in the future, Johnson said he could not rule it out, while stressing that the primary focus would be “to go for the earliest possible programme of inoculation and vaccination”.

Pressed on lockdowns, he said: “Look, I think it would be irresponsible of any leader, in any democracy, to say that they’re going to rule out something that could save life. And I believe that the things that we did saved lives. There could be – I’ve got to be absolutely frank with you – there could be a new variant, more deadly, there could be a variant that affects children, badly, that we really need to contain. I’m not going to take any options off the table.

“But I don’t think it will happen. I think we’re now in the phase of – and this is the view of all the advisers I talk to – that we’re now in the phase where the virus is losing its potency overall and we’ve got a massively vaccinated UK population.”

Asked about parties in and around Downing Street, for which some officials have been fined by police, and over which Johnson faces the possibility of a fine himself, he largely declined to discuss the issue.

“On what actually happened … a lot of nonsense has been talked but I just think it’s much better if I wait until the conclusion of the inquiry before saying anything further,” Johnson said. “I’ve said I won’t comment on it, what I will do is say much more at the end. And what we’re getting on with – I’ve got to let the police get on with their job.”

Asked about his bout of Covid two years ago, which involved a stint in intensive care, Johnson said his oxygen saturation levels had dropped into the 80s by percent.

“You should be roughly 94%, or above 94%, oxygenation of the blood and I think when I went in I was in the 80s somewhere, I think, and I then had a pretty groggy night and, you know, went down even lower,” Johnson said.

He said he had been told by doctors he needed hospitalisation. “It wasn’t sort of my idea. I think when you’re going through something like that you don’t actually think of it in those terms.

“I was thinking about, you know, all the stuff I had to do. I mean, I was literally, I spend most of the time thinking: ‘I wish I could get out of here because I’m pretty certain I’ve got to do a press conference tomorrow morning, I’m pretty certain I’ve got to be making some announcement or other.’”

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