Boris Johnson In Another Mask Row After 'Parading Round A Hospital' Without Face Covering

Follows backlash over pictures with Sir David Attenborough – but hospital says the prime minister "followed strict measures".
<strong>Boris Johnson meets with medical staff during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Hexham.</strong>
Boris Johnson meets with medical staff during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Hexham.
POOL New via Reuters

Boris Johnson has faced condemnation after some photographs showed the prime minister without a mask during a hospital visit.

The prime minister attended a “long-standing engagement” at Hexham General Hospital, Northumberland, on Monday – meaning he was unable to attend a debate on standards in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal.

He toured the hospital, praising staff for their efforts to carry on treating patients and undertaking operations despite the pandemic.

The pictures emerged less than a week after Johnson faced a backlash for not wearing a face mask while sat next to 95-year-old Sir David Attenborough at Cop26.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said on Twitter: “So not only is Boris Johnson too cowardly to turn up to parliament to defend the sleazy corrupt government shenanigans of recent days. He’s now irresponsibly parading round a hospital without a mask. Patients and NHS staff deserve better than this.”

The Liberal Democrats tweeted: “Not only did Boris Johnson travel 280 miles to avoid a debate on his government’s sleaze and corruption, he couldn’t be bothered to wear a mask while walking around a hospital once he got there.”

But the NHS trust that runs the hospital defended Johnson. Northumbria NHS tweeted: “Please be assured that infection prevention and control remains an utmost priority for our trust. The prime minister Boris Johnson followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.”

It came as the UK reported a further 57 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and another 32,322 Covid cases, according to the latest government data.

Johnson has stirred up controversy by not wearing a face covering in various crowded settings in recent months, including in the Commons and in small rooms with his ministers. He has repeatedly refused to make masks mandatory as well.