As the public Covid Inquiry continues to cause a stir, how much do you really remember about the headlines at the time?
The Covid Inquiry has just revealed new details about what really happened behind the Downing Street doors during the early days of the pandemic.
New documents show that back in 2020, Boris Johnson believed old people should just “accept their fate” and catch Covid while his aide Dominic Cummings referred to the PM’s pandemic strategy as “Jaws mode wank”.
WhatsApp messages reveal the cabinet secretary Simon Case claimed that Johnson’s governing style was comparable to then-US president Donald Trump and then-Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who both denied the existence of Covid initially.
As the new revelations about these private conversations continue to come thick and fast, here’s a look back at the shocking elements which did make it into the mainstream during the early months of pandemic – just in case they had slipped your mind.
2. Boris Johnson shaking hands with Covid patients
The then prime minister boasted about shaking hands “continuously with everybody” at a hospital when there were confirmed Covid patients – despite the official advice suggesting otherwise.
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, Sage, said on March 3 that the government should “advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the important of hand hygiene”.
Later that same day, then PM told a press conference: “I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.
“People obviously can make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is … our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.”
Johnson confirmed he had Covid on March 27, and his spokesperson said he “wouldn’t have seen” Sage’s advice before the press conference above.
2. Dominic Cummings’ Barnard Castle trip
Dominic Cummings, who served as then prime minister Boris Johnson’s aide until November 2020, made headline news for breaking lockdown to see his parents 260 miles away in Durham in the early stages of the pandemic.
During his trip, he drove his family to Barnard Castle briefly, too.
Despite intense media backlash, the PM’s spokesperson said: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.”
But when he was subsequently left fighting for his job, Cummings hosted a very unusual press briefing in the garden of 10 Downing Street.
He claimed he had “acted reasonably” and had no regrets over his journey in May 2020. He added that his trip to the castle was meant to “test his eyesight” before he embarked on the 300-mile trip back to London.
In an interview with the BBC in 2021, Cummings admitted that there were also security concerns around his home in London.
3. Matt Hancock unveils ‘CARE’ badge
The green badge read “CARE” on a green background, and would entitle those with it to the same privileges as health service workers, such as priority access to shops during the lockdown period.
Hancock said at the daily Downing Street press conference: “One of the things that I’m most proud of during this terrible crisis is that people have held health and social care workers in such high esteem across the board.
“It’s not clap for the NHS – it’s clap for our carers. And to take this further were today introducing a single brand for social care to symbolise the entire care profession.
“This is something I know so many people in the profession have called for.”