Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his most explicit apology for his handling of the Covid crisis on Wednesday, saying his government initially underestimated the virus’ risks.
Johnson appeared before an official public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic, during which he took responsibility for all decisions made by his government during that time.
“Can I say that I understand the feelings of the victims and their families, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and the suffering,” Johnson said at the inquiry in London.
However, he also insisted that he was not properly warned about the potential seriousness of Covid back in early 2020, saying, “I was not being informed that this was something that would require urgent and immediate action.”
Johnson also rejected accusations that he had “taken his eye off the ball” in February when he spent most of a half-term holiday at the Prime Minister’s country retreat in Kent, England.
This week’s two-day inquiry follows a report issued by the UK Parliament in June that concluded that Johnson misled lawmakers over breaching his own Covid-19 lockdown rules.
That months-long inquiry, led by the House of Commons Committee of Privileges, found that Johnson “committed a serious contempt” of Parliament when it was revealed that illegal gatherings had taken place at the Prime Minister’s Downing Street residence in London amid the so-called “Partygate” scandal, though Johnson told lawmakers amid that inquiry that rules were followed at all times.
Days ahead of the June report’s release, Johnson angrily resigned from his position as a Member of Parliament (MP)—ahead of being forced out.
He had been forced to resign as Prime Minister by nearly 60 members of his government in the summer of 2022 after a historic party revolt over a series of ethics scandals. Among them, he faced a barrage of criticism over Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties thrown in his Downing Street offices, for which he and others were fined.