Boris Johnson asked to be injected with COVID virus on TV to calm public, inquiry hears

LONDON — Boris Johnson wanted to be injected with the coronavirus live on television at the start of the pandemic to show the virus “did not pose a threat,” the U.K.’s official coronavirus inquiry heard Tuesday.

The claim came in a witness statement to the ongoing probe from Edward Lister, the then-prime minister’s chief of staff from 2019-2021 and a trusted aide who also worked with Johnson as mayor of London.

He said Johnson “suggested to senior civil servants and advisors that he wanted to be injected with Covid-19 on television to demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat.”

Lister, now a Conservative member of the House of Lords, said the comments came “at a time when COVID was not seen as being the serious disease it subsequently became,” and described it as an “unfortunate comment.” 

Noting that he was unsure of the exact timing of the comment, he said it was “made in the heat of the moment.”

It’s the second time such a claim has been made about Johnson. Dominic Cummings — Johnson’s former top adviser who quit amid a row with the then-Conservative leader — told a parliamentary committee in 2021 that No. 10 Downing Street officials had been concerned Johnson would tell cabinet colleagues “this is swine flu, don’t worry about it and I’m going to get (Chief Medical Officer) Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus.”

Johnson is yet to appear before the inquiry, where he will be quizzed on his government’s response to the pandemic and will be given the chance to put forward his own version of events.