Boris Johnson discusses chances of 'increased transmission'
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The BBC’s political editor spoke to senior politicians, officials and former officials who were involved in major decisions throughout the pandemic. This comes after the UK has recorded more than 125,000 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
One source said at the start of the pandemic there was a “lack of concern and energy” and the general view was it was just “hysteria”.
Ms Kuenssberg wrote: “The Prime Minister was even heard to say: ‘The best thing would be to ignore it’.
“And he repeatedly warned, several sources tell me, that an overreaction could do more harm than good.”
She explained how the game-changer moment was when the pandemic took hold in northern Italy.
Ms Kuenssberg continued: “Ministers and officials became locked in arguments over how to respond.
“The Prime Minister and many Cabinet ministers were reluctant to consider anything as draconian as a lockdown.
“To many people, the very idea would have seemed fanciful.”
Ms Kuenssberg also claimed ahead of the first coronavirus briefing in March, Mr Johnson was told by aides to urge people to stop shaking hands.
However, the Prime Minister instead said he had “shaken hands with everybody” while visiting Covid patients in hospital.
Ms Kuenessberg continued: “And it was not just a slip, one of those present at the briefing says.
“It demonstrated ‘the whole conflict for him – and his lack of understands of the severity of what was coming’.”
She then said a Downing Street spokesperson told the BBC: “The Prime Minister was very clear at the time he was taking a number of precautionary steps, including frequently washing his hands.
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“Once the social distancing advice changed, the Prime Minister’s approach changed.”
Just weeks after the press conference, Mr Johnson tested positive for the deadly pandemic and recovered in an intensive care unit.
In November, Mr Johnson was forced to self-isolate again after the NHS Test and Trace app said he was in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
Ms Kuenssberg’s sources said there were also initial arguments in Government about whether there should be a hard lockdown or even herd immunity.
More shockingly, the BBC’s political editor revealed there were talks of “chickenpox parties” in a bid to spread the disease.
She said: “There were even talk of ‘chickenpox parties’, where healthy people might be encouraged to gather to spread the disease.
“And while that was not considered a policy proposal, real consideration was given to whether suppressing Covid entirely could be counterproductive.”
A source told her: “We knew there was going to be a second wave and there was a row about whether people should work from home or not – it was totally ridiculous”.
Another minister told Ms Kuenssberg: “We should have locked down more severely, earlier in the autumn — the whole point was, the earlier you act the more you buy yourself time for a strategy that can get out.”
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