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Johnson and Sunak were happy to let people die from Covid, inquiry hears

Boris Johnson wanted to let Covid “rip” despite the fact people would die, while Rishi Sunak also thought that was “okay”, the public inquiry has heard.

In further revelations from Sir Patrick Vallance’s pandemic diaries, the inquiry heard of the “shambolic” day on October 25 2020, when the country was heading towards a second national lockdown.

The diary entry highlights how the former prime minister wanted to let the virus spread, while his most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings (DC), suggested Mr Sunak, then chancellor, also thought it was “okay” to just let people die.

Coronavirus – Mon Feb 21, 2022
Former prime minister Boris Johnson during a Covid media briefing (Tolga Akmen/PA)

The extract read: “PM meeting – begins to argue for letting it all rip. Saying yes there will be more casualties but so be it – ‘they have had a good innings’.

“Not persuaded by (Jon) Edmunds, (Neil) Ferguson, (Jeremy) Farrar. PM says ‘the population just has to behave doesn’t it’.

“Heat maps ‘I have the necrotising maps’ so depressing.

“DC says trajectory will leave us in Nov – much as where we were in 1st week of April.

“Chris quite bullish about being able to take the brakes off more in April…

“Goes on about Gulf War Syndrome again… PM getting very frustrated – throwing papers down.

“PM then back on to ‘most people who die have reached their time anyway’.

“DC arguing we need to save lives – it is not democratically possible to follow another route…

Coronavirus – Thu Oct 22, 2020
The inquiry heard that Rishi Sunak thought it was ‘okay’ to let people die during the pandemic (Henry Nicholls/PA)

“DC argued again (rightly) that a lockdown’s coming and therefore do it sooner rather than later.

“PM concludes, ‘Looks like we are in a really tough spot, a complete shambles.’

“‘I really don’t want to do another national lockdown’.

“PM told that if he wants to go down this route of letting go, ‘you need to tell people – you need to tell them you are going to allow people to die’…

“Conclusion – beef up the tiers – consider a national lockdown – decide by when.

“DC says ‘Rishi thinks just let people die and that’s okay’.

“This all feels like a complete lack of leadership.”

Asked about the diary entry, Sir Patrick told the inquiry he was recording what must have been “quite a shambolic day”.

However, the following day’s entry shows Johnson had taken a different view and described the Covid death toll as “terrible”.

The inquiry also heard that Sir Patrick wrote that “we have a weak indecisive PM” and described the right-wing press as “culpable” in decision-making on Covid measures.

Asked about the diary entries, Downing Street declined to say whether Mr Sunak thought it would be OK to “just let people die” during the pandemic, saying it would be for the Prime Minister to set out his position during evidence before the Covid Inquiry.

“The Prime Minister is due to give evidence before the inquiry at the time of their choosing. That’s when he’ll set out his position,” Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said.

The spokesman said a number of people will be setting out their views of the period, but “rather than respond to each one in piecemeal, it’s right that it is looked at alongside other evidence”.