Boris Johnson was likely to have asked why “destroy” the economy with lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic when people “will die anyway soon”, a one-time aide of the former prime minister has told the public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the outbreak.
The claim emerged when Imran Shafi, Johnson’s former private secretary, was on Monday questioned about his handwritten notes from a March 2020 meeting between the-then PM and Rishi Sunak, who was chancellor at the time.
Inquiry counsel Hugo Keith KC read out sections of the note, including the line: “Large (number of) people who will die - why are we destroying (the) economy for people who will die anyway soon?”
The note reads: "Why are we destroying (the economy) for people who will anyway die soon?"
Asked who said the words, Shafi replied: “I can’t say for sure, I think it was the former prime minister.”
Johnson was opposed to a lockdown because of potential negative effects on the economy, people’s mental health and other factors, Shafi had said earlier.
Asked about the term “bed blockers”, which also featured in the note, Shafi said: “I think that was a term that was also widely used in DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) and the NHS of people who didn’t need to be in hospital.”
The phrase “we are killing the patient to tackle the tumour” also featured in the note about the meeting.
Imran Shafi, former private secretary to former prime minister Boris Johnson, arrives to give a statement to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry at Dorland House in London.
It came as advisers to the government were grilled by lawyers as the latest part of the public inquiry.
WhatsApp messages published by the inquiry on Monday revealed the cabinet secretary Simon Case’s withering assessment of Johnson.
Case, the UK’s top civil servant, told colleagues Johnson “cannot lead” during the pandemic, and “changed strategic direction every day”.
Other messages exposed the chaos in government as he outbreak spread.