01 June 2023

Key questions for Boris Johnson from the Covid inquiry

01 June 2023

The Covid inquiry has sent Boris Johnson a list of 150 questions and requests for his witness statement, documents released by the Cabinet Office have shown.

Here are some of the key questions for the former prime minister:

– Did the UK Government/Cabinet Office structures and processes for dealing with emergencies at prime minister, Cabinet, Cabinet Office, ministerial and departmental levels work effectively and properly enable key decisions in relation to the response to Covid-19 to be taken?

– To what extent were key decisions made outside formal government processes, for example in informal and non-minuted meetings?

– Was the advice that you received from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) transparent and clear throughout the pandemic? Were the roles of the GCSA and CMO effective in harnessing and distilling advice from Sage to you and other core decision-makers? Did you feel able to properly challenge their advice?

– Did you have any concerns regarding the adequacy or sufficiency of scientific and other expert advice (including where relevant, any underpinning data) on which decisions were based? If so, what were these concerns?

– Between January and July 2020 did you receive advice from the then Cabinet Secretary that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, should be removed from his position? If so, why?

– What steps did you take in January 2020 to ascertain the state of the UK’s emergency preparedness to deal with a pandemic?

– Notwithstanding that the DHSC was the lead government department, why did you not attend any Cobra meetings in relation to Covid-19 prior to March 2 2020, given the seriousness of the emergency?

– Why did you attend a personal/social meeting on the evening of March 19, after you had called on the UK on March 16 to stop all non-essential contact with others?

– When did you become aware that Covid-19 could be spread person to person asymptomatically?

– Please explain the concept of “herd immunity” and the extent to which seeking herd immunity formed part of the Government’s strategy for preventing a second wave following the lifting of social restrictions. To what extent did the Government consider that it would be possible to shield the vulnerable from severe infection as part of such a strategy?

– Please confirm whether in March 2020 (or around that period), you suggested to senior civil servants and advisers that you be injected with Covid-19 on television to demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat? Please provide details of when any such conversation took place and the circumstances in which it was had?

– Did the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord Sedwill, on March 12 2020 (or around that period), advise you to inform the public to hold “chickenpox parties” in order to spread infections of Covid-19? What was your response to any such advice?

– What was your understanding as to whether individuals being discharged from hospital into care homes would first be tested for Covid-19? Did the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care provide you with an assurance, at any stage, that this testing would be in place for such individuals prior to discharge?

– Please explain when and why a national lockdown was adopted in March 2020 as the UK Government’s strategy for responding to the pandemic.

– What discussions did you have with the then Chancellor, about the Eat Out to Help Out scheme prior to its implementation in August 2020? Did you support the introduction of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme at the time? Did you consider at the time, the potential impact of the scheme on the number of Covid-19 infections?

– Did you say on or around September 22 2020 that you felt that Sage had “manipulated” you into imposing the first lockdown?

– In or around autumn 2020, did you state that you would rather “let the bodies pile high” than order another lockdown, or words to that effect? If so, please set out the circumstances in which you made these comments.

– To what extent was there a four-nation approach to the Covid-19 response? Please comment on the effectiveness of intergovernmental working and decision-making between the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive during the pandemic.

– Please explain what impact, if any, you consider alleged breaches of social restriction and lockdown rules by ministers, officials and advisers, and the associated public debate at that time, had on public confidence and the maintenance of observance of those rules by the public?

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