Boris Johnson’s ‘fury’ at dodgy Covid dossier


Boris Johnson believes he was bounced into ordering a second national lockdown, a Cabinet ally said last night.

The Prime Minister reluctantly signed off a new lockdown in England last weekend after being warned by Government scientists that deaths could rise to 4,000 a day – four times the peak seen in April.

The decision was rushed out with minimal Cabinet consultation after news of the warning, and the PM’s reaction to it, was leaked to news organisations, including the Daily Mail.

The 4,000-a-day figure has since been widely discredited and Government scientists have been forced to correct other dire warnings used to inform the lockdown decision.

Some data last week suggested that the second wave may have levelled off or even peaked before the lockdown was introduced last Thursday.

Yesterday another 156 Covid deaths were reported across the UK, down from 162 a week earlier.

Some 20,572 cases were recorded, a fall of 2,682 on the previous Sunday’s total of 23,254.

One Cabinet minister last night told the Daily Mail that Mr Johnson felt he had been pushed into the decision.

‘I think he is concerned that he may have been bounced into it,’ the source said.

‘He was really, really cross about the leak because at that point a different decision might still have been made.

‘There is also concern that some of the information used to inform the decision now seems to be crumbling.

‘In fact the figures seem to be suggesting things were getting better before the lockdown began – we are being shut down for a month when we did not need to be.’

The source predicted the episode would harden the PM’s attitude against any attempt to renew the restrictions.

‘It means a third or fourth lockdown is very unlikely,’ the source said. ‘All of this goes against his political inclinations.’

Downing Street last night denied that the PM felt he had been bounced into the lockdown.

A Government source said: ‘It is true that we were furious about the leak, but the PM is absolutely clear that the evidence showed these measures were necessary.

‘Even if you put the 4,000 figure to one side, there was plenty of other very concerning data, such as the hospitalisation figures, that made it very clear he had to act.’

But Tory MPs seized on the claim to demand an early end to the draconian restrictions.

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne told MailOnline that carrying out a U-turn should not be a problem, given recent rethinks on free school meals and other issues.

‘We’ve not shown any reluctance to just reverse decisions that we thought were wrong in the recent past,’ the MP said.

‘If we think that the wrong decision has been made then clearly it should be reversed as soon as possible. The less damage done the better. No point in hanging on for the full month just to maximise the pain.

‘Particularly when all the signs are starting to show that actually according to the data we have already turned the corner.’

Another senior MP warned that calls for a shortening would become irresistible if the trend in infections continued.

‘One thing is certain, and that’s if the decline continues the government should be looking at relaxing the restrictions earlier than December 2,’ they said.

‘The economy cannot remain frozen like this.’

Fifty Tory MPs rebelled on the lockdown legislation and rebel sources believe the revolt could top 100 if there is any attempt to extend it.

The PM has publicly stated that it will ‘expire’ on December 2, with England then reverting to a system of regional restrictions.

Cases in Merseyside and the North East fell following the introduction of tough measures under the previous three-tier system.

The Office for National Statistics reported on Friday that the rate at which the virus is spreading also appeared to be slowing down.

The ONS estimate of new daily infections fell from 51,900 to 45,700 in the week to the end of October.

A study by King’s College London last week found the R-rate, which measures the speed at which the virus is spreading, had fallen to one.

Professor Tim Spector, the scientist behind the study, said it was a ‘positive sign we have passed the peak of this second wave’, although he said the lockdown would help squeeze the virus further.

However the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) said the virus was still growing, with the R-Rate estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3.

n Britain’s Covid-19 response is doing more harm than good, a group of 469 doctors and academics has warned.

In an open letter to Mr Johnson, they say the Government’s approach is ‘disproportionate’ and widespread testing is ‘exaggerating’ the scale of the risk.

They insist the term ‘second wave’ is misleading when it is normal to see an increase in illness and deaths in any given winter.

The letter, organised by campaign group UsForThem, has been signed by experts including psychology professor Ellen Townsend and economics professor David Paton, both of Nottingham University, and David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia.

A Government spokesman said: ‘It is completely wrong to suggest the Government is exaggerating the data.

The restrictions have been introduced to save lives and protect the NHS. We have been guided by the advice of experts from Sage from the outset.

Source: Daily Mail