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Claim PM wanted to ‘ignore’ pandemic in early stages not denied by No 10

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Witty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street - Credit: PA

Downing Street has not denied reports that Boris Johnson thought the best approach in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic was to “ignore it”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman pointed to the government’s approach of doing “everything we can” to reduce transmission of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

The BBC reported that there was a lack of concern in No 10 in the early stages of the pandemic.

The prime minister was heard to say “the best thing would be to ignore it” and he repeatedly warned that an overreaction could do more harm than good, according to the broadcaster’s sources.



Asked about the alleged comment, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “I would point back to what the prime minister said and set out at the time.

“It has always been our focus to reduce the cases of transmission, to protect the NHS and to ultimately protect lives.

“That’s what we did when we first locked down the country last year and that’s what we have sought to do throughout the pandemic.”

When it was pointed out he was not denying the claim, the spokesman said: “I’m pointing out that throughout the pandemic what we have done is do what we think was the best course of action in terms of protecting lives and in terms of protecting the NHS.

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“That has been our focus throughout the pandemic.”

Asked whether the prime minister had said those words privately, the spokesman added: “I’m pointing to what we did and the fact that the prime minister, based on the scientific evidence and medical evidence, made the decisions that we did in order to protect the NHS and save lives.”

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