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Boris Johnson Fails To Deny He Said Covid Was "Only Killing 80-Year-Olds"

Boris Johnson has defended his actions during the pandemic (Parliament TV)

3 min read

The Prime Minister has failed to deny reports that he had ignored pleas for a second lockdown last Autumn because the virus was "only killing 80-year-olds".

At Prime Minister's Questions, Johnson defended the government's response to the pandemic following a series of damaging claims made by former adviser Dominic Cummings.

He claimed the government had "at every stage" tried to protect lives during the pandemic as he insisted ministers had followed the scientific advice.

His comments came after Labour leader Keir Starmer pressed the PM over Cummings accusation that ministers and officials "fell disastrously short of the standards the public has a right to a crisis like this".

But Johnson hit back, saying: "I don't think anybody can accuse this government of being complacent about the virus."

The comments on Covid "only killing 80-year-olds," first reported by ITV News, allegedly came as Downing Street grappled with calls to enforce a second lockdown amid soaring Covid cases late last year.

Another source claimed to the Mirror that Johnson made the claims and added: "If I was 80 I wouldn't care, I'd be more worried about the economy."

But pressed on the comments, Johnson failed to deny the accusations, saying it would be a matter for the future inquiry into the pandemic.

It is expected the comments could be raised by Cummings who has already made a series of damaging claims about the Prime Minister and the government at a Commons committee hearing.

But faced with the comments from Cummings that the government had "failed in its reponse to the pandemic," Johnson said he had tried at "every stage" to "minimise loss of life".

He said: "To deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly difficult and we’ve at every stage tried to minimise loss of life, to save lives and protect the NHS, and we’ve followed the best scientific advice that we can."

Cummings also revealed today the Prime Minister had initially dismissed Covid-19 as a "scare story" and similar to swine flu. 

The Prime Minister's press secretary failed to deny that comment, as well as Johnson saying that the virus was only "killing 80-year-olds".

She said: "We're not going to engage with every allegation made today. The Prime Minister has set out throughout the pandemic our priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS and support people's jobs and livlihoods across the entire United Kingdom."

Asked again if Downing Street denied Johnson made those remarks, she said: "You can judge the Prime Minister by the actions he's taken over the last year."

Meanwhile, the PM batted away accusations from his former aide that Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been sacked "15-20 times" during the early stages of the pandemic, including for repeatedly lying in meetings.

But Johnson said he had not lost faith in Hancock as he claimed he had not seen Cummings' evidence to MPs.

He added: "I must say that I think what the people want us all to do is get on with the delicate business now of trying to reopen our economy and restore people's freedoms, get back to our way of life, by rolling out the vaccine."

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