Boris Johnson offered to be injected with Covid live on TV to “demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat”, his former chief of staff has told the Covid Inquiry.
In his written statement, Lord Edward Udny-Lister said that the former Prime Minister made the “unhelpful” comment during discussions with officials over how to limit transmission of the virus as it spread through Europe in early 2020.
Appearing before the inquiry on Tuesday, he said: “It was before the Italian situation had really become apparent to everybody. It was a time when Covid was not seen as being the serious disease it subsequently became.
“It was a moment in time – I think it was an unfortunate comment.”
Lord Udny-Lister said he could not recall the exact timing of the comment.
Mr Johnson later caught Covid organically during the course of the pandemic and was at one point in intensive care.
Pressed by Andrew O’Connor KC on it being known that Covid was a deadly disease many weeks before then, Lord Udny-Lister said: “We were still living in the forlorn hope that it wasn’t going to come – it was wrong.
“I fully accept it’s a comment that shouldn’t have been made, but it was made in the heat of the moment, that’s all.”
Lord Udny-Lister also wrote in his statement: "I recall the PM in September 2020 saying he would rather 'let the bodies pile high' than impose another lockdown."
Earlier on Tuesday, the Inquiry heard how Mr Johnson had referred to a “whisky and a revolver” during a meeting with officials in October 2020 and spoke about “medieval measures” to tackle the pandemic.
The remarks were detailed in the notebook of the then-chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance as Mr Johnson’s government mulled whether to impose a second national lockdown.
In his notebook, detailing a meeting in early October, Sir Patrick wrote: “Very bad meeting in no.10… PM talks of medieval measures than ones being suggested.
“Perhaps we should look at another approach and apply different values… Surely this just sweeps through in waves like other natural phenomena and there is nothing we can do.
“As Simon Ridley said final slide, PM said ‘Whisky and a revolver’. He was all over the place. CX (Chancellor) using increasingly specific and spurious arguments against closing hospitality. Both of them clutching at straws…
“There are really only three choices for the high prevalence areas… 1) Do a proper lockdown 2) Use military to enforce the rules 3) Do nothing and do a ‘Barrington Declaration’ and count the bodies (poor, old and BAME). When will they decide.”
The Great Barrington Declaration was a document signed by “lockdown sceptic” scientists calling for an end to lockdown measures in favour of a herd immunity approach, such as that employed by Sweden.