According to a former health minister, in the beginning stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, Brexit took precedence over addressing the issue, as the investigation into the UK’s handling of the pandemic gains momentum.
In March 2020, Lord Bethell became a health minister when the UK entered its initial lockdown. He stated that Boris Johnson made every effort to not solely concentrate on the pandemic.
During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, the member of the Conservative party stated that they were aware of the challenges in getting a response from Downing Street during the initial stages of the pandemic. They also mentioned that they could see the impending crisis approaching.
“He mentioned to us that there were higher priorities, such as Brexit. Personally, I found this to be completely incomprehensible and confusing,” he stated.
The speaker stated that Boris Johnson struggled to address the possibility of a pandemic, as it was not something he preferred to deal with. Despite this, he made efforts to steer away from the topic.
Bethell made his remarks prior to the testimony of Dominic Cummings, who previously served as Johnson’s top advisor, at the coronavirus inquiry on Tuesday.
Lee Cain, the ex-director of communications for 10 Downing Street who departed from the government one day prior to Cummings, will also make an appearance.
Bethell explained on the Today programme that the atmosphere in Downing Street during that time was disorganized. She described it as an unhealthy workplace environment where bullying and disorderly conduct were accepted as the norm.
The peer expressed disappointment that things did not go well after supporting Johnson for prime minister.
He stated that he was well-informed of the poisonous atmosphere in Downing Street and noted that the frequent changes in direction greatly impeded our progress.
During this week’s inquiry, the former prime minister is anticipated to face tough questioning. According to a diary from a former private secretary that was presented to the inquiry on Monday, the former prime minister inquired about the reasoning behind causing harm to the economy during the pandemic for individuals who would likely pass away soon anyway.
The person responsible for writing the memo, Imran Shafi, stated during the investigation that he believed it was Johnson who had made the remarks. This was following a collection of journal entries and WhatsApp conversations that indicated the lack of respect held for the previous Conservative leader by high-ranking advisors.
The UK’s investigation into the pandemic heard Simon Case, the highest-ranking civil servant in Whitehall, express frustration that Johnson is unable to effectively lead and wants to make rash decisions regarding Covid-19.
The cabinet secretary sent a WhatsApp message to Dominic Cummings, who was then Johnson’s top adviser, expressing frustration with the government’s inconsistent handling of the pandemic. The message read, “I am extremely frustrated and fed up.”
Case stated that the strategic direction shifts on a daily basis. On Monday, the focus was on the fear of the virus resurfacing in Europe and March. However, today, the approach is to “let it rip” due to the UK’s incompetence and need for a reality check. Case will testify at a later time during the inquiry.
According to notes from Sir Patrick Vallance’s notebook, the chief scientific adviser saw the previous prime minister as “ineffective and hesitant”.