PMQs: Boris Johnson's easing plans scrutinised amid "Summer of Chaos" accusations


By Jordan Maharjan, Mayowa Ayodele


The final PMQs before the summer recess saw the Prime Minister sidestep opposition demands for an apology, following leaked messages in which he suggested covid was ‘only killing over 80s’.  

In response to Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, the Prime Minister, who is currently in self-isolating, chose to highlight the difficulty behind the decisions taken in the lead up to last autumn. 

“Nothing I do can make up for the loss or suffering people have endured throughout this pandemic. There will of course be a public inquiry into what has happened. … These are incredibly tough decisions you have to take. You have to balance the catastrophe of the disease against the suffering that is caused by lockdowns.”

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson fails to address the damning leaked messages which have emerged this week

However, his statement failed to placate opposition pushback following days of negative press. The SNP’s Ian Blackford honed in on the damage the Prime Minister’s words have had on public confidence.

“How can anyone put faith and trust in a Prime Minister who actually typed the words, ‘get covid and live longer?’”

SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford

The WhatsApp message was leaked by former advisor to No.10 Dominic Cummings, and is the latest in a long line of exchanges that has seen the government subject to relentless criticism for its handling of the pandemic. This has led to mounting pressure from parties and even the government’s own scientific advisory group, SAGE, to bring forward the Spring 2022 covid inquiry. 

Sir Jeremy Farrar has been critical of the government's decision to hold the inquiry next year

Amid accusations that political manoeuvring is behind the delayed investigation, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to follow through with the independent probe, but stated it was not yet the right time.

“I don’t think that right now, in the middle of a third wave when we’re seeing many of the key people involved in fighting the pandemic very heavily occupied – I don’t think it’s right to ask them to devote a lot of their time to a public inquiry of the kind we would all want to see."

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

Cases rise following lockdown easing

While the public has embraced Freedom Day, fears continue to grow over the rise in cases across the UK.

Experts including the clinical epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani had warned against the ‘premature opening’ and the latest figures showed a marked increase in positive tests. 44,104 new COVID-19 cases were recorded today, the second-highest figure across the globe in the last 24 hours. This cements a seven-day average of over 46,000 cases per day.

The government's easing strategy was called into doubt as a result of the upward trend, with the inconsistency of its messaging coming under fire during the session.

Included in this was criticism of the much-maligned NHS Covid app and the shift in stance over self-isolation advice which the Labour leader described as “all over the place”. 

These issues have sparked fears of a self-induced ‘pingdemic’ with Starmer suggesting that the UK was headed “for a summer of chaos” if the government failed to get to grips with the surge in app-related isolations. 

We’re heading for a summer of chaos. 1 million children were out of school last week, and a huge number of businesses are closing because so many staff are self-isolating.… How are businesses meant to plan when the Prime Minister keeps chopping and changing?"

Labour Leader, Keir Starmer

The Prime Minister responded by defending the current measures and highlighting the effectiveness of the UK’s vaccination campaign so far.

 “We have rolled out vaccines faster than any other country in Europe: 96% of people over 50 will now have had a vaccine, and 68% of people have had two jabs”

Boris Johnson, in defence of the government's vaccination campaign

The United Kingdom still records the highest covid-related death toll in Europe but smaller nations such as Hungary and Bulgaria hold a higher death rate per 100,000 people.


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