Boris to come out fighting at Covid Inquiry grilling: I got big calls right

The former prime minister will steer clear of personal attacks despite the onslaught of abuse he has faced from some former colleagues but will give a robust defence of the UK’s ­performance during the crisis.

A source close to the ex-PM said: “The Government got the big calls right on Covid and, under Boris’s ­leadership, the UK had the fastest ­vaccine rollout in Europe.

“Boris got us out of lockdown quicker than other European countries and got the economy moving again quicker than other nations.

“The UK did not perform the worst in Covid contrary to some claims.”

Mr Johnson faces two days of ­intensive questioning by top barristers about how he led the Government’s response to the pandemic.

It is thought he will repeat apologies made for the shortcomings of the government but will defend his record of getting major decisions right.

But it is understood he believes the inquiry should be looking at wider issues around Covid than lockdowns.

They include whether the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory, the economic effects of lockdown and the impact on children.

The former premier is expected to tell the probe he followed the advice of scientists.

Earlier in the inquiry his ex-chief adviser Dominic Cummings claimed Mr Johnson asked scientists whether Covid could be destroyed by blowing a “special hair dryer” up noses.

He also alleged Mr Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than hit the economy with further restrictions.

Extracts from the diaries of former chief scientific adviser to the Government Sir Patrick Vallance ­suggested Mr Johnson wanted to let Covid “rip”. And Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said Mr Johnson and his inner circle were “basically feral”.

Mr Johnson is likely to highlight actions taken to ensure the NHS did not collapse. After expletive-ridden messages being shared between key figures in government were revealed at the probe, Mr Johnson is expected to say he occasionally used expressive ­language but was trying to test and ­provoke the advisers around him so he got a better idea of what they
were saying to him.

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However, the former PM has denied deleting WhatsApp messages after it emerged he has not been able to ­provide the inquiry with any communications from February to June 2020 – spanning the early days of the pandemic and most of the first lockdown.

It comes after the Times reported Mr Johnson said technical experts have not been able to retrieve WhatsApp messages.

Boffins had been trying to recover them from his old mobile to hand them over to the inquiry.

Mr Johnson was originally told to stop using the device over security concerns after it emerged his number had been online for 15 years.

He then reportedly forgot the ­passcode. A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “Boris Johnson has fully cooperated with the Inquiry’s disclosure process and has submitted hundreds of pages of material. He has not deleted any messages.

“The Times report refers to a technical issue in the recovery of material that is for the technical team to address.”

Mr Johnson was advised to stop using the phone and not access it again on security grounds while PM in May 2021.

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