Johnson criticised for ‘irresponsibly parading’ around a hospital without a mask

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The Prime Minister has come in for criticism after being accused of “irresponsibly parading” around a North East hospital without a face covering on.

Boris Johnson visited Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland on Monday to reinforce the Government’s messaging behind persuading more vulnerable and older people to take up the offer of a Covid booster jab.

During the visit, pictures showed him going about the hospital without a face covering – while wearing a mask at other times.

In photos where he is without a mask, Mr Johnson is seen elbow-bumping and greeting nurses who are wearing disposable face coverings.

Labour’s shadow health secretary linked the mask-less images to Mr Johnson’s decision not to return from the visit in time to take part in a Commons debate on parliamentary standards after his Government U-turned last week on its move to rip up the current probe system to investigate MP wrongdoing.

Jonathan Ashworth said on Twitter: “So not only is Boris Johnson too cowardly to turn up to Parliament to defend the sleazy corrupt government shenanigans of recent days.

“He’s now irresponsibly parading round a hospital without a mask. Patients and NHS staff deserve better than this.”

Boris Johnson was photographed with and without a face mask on during his hospital visit on Monday
Boris Johnson was photographed with and without a face mask on during his hospital visit on Monday (Peter Summers/PA)

However, Downing Street and the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Hexham General, defended the Prime Minister following the visit.

Replying to a complaint about Mr Johnson appearing without a mask in a photo, Northumbria NHS said on social media: “Please be assured that infection prevention and control remains an utmost priority for our trust.

“The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.”

According to guidance published on the trust’s website, it recommends that visitors wash their hands at the hospital entrance and “wear a face covering when you enter the hospital until you leave.”

Questioned by reporters on whether Mr Johnson had broken the rules, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “During a hospital visit, we always make sure we abide by the rules set out.

“He will have been abiding by the rules in place.”

It is the second time in the past eight days that No 10 has had to field questions about Mr Johnson’s mask wearing habits.

Last week, his official spokesman was asked why the Conservative Party leader had opted not to cover his mouth and nose when sat next to renowned natural historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who is 95 years old, at the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

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