Ex-Boris aide: Experts wanted first lockdown to go on ALL summer
THE first lockdown was ‘longer than was necessary’, Boris Johnson’s former right-hand man told the Covid inquiry yesterday.
Eddie Lister, an ex-No 10 chief of staff, claimed health experts even wanted curbs to last throughout the summer of 2020, despite ‘enormous public pressure’ to open up the country.
Lord Lister praised his former boss for ‘trying to steer a path’ through the pandemic between the competing arguments for prioritising health versus the economy.
But he said the first lockdown, which lasted from March until June, went on for too long. He told the inquiry: ‘The concern about the economy was enormous.
‘Business wasn’t flowing. By the early part of lockdown, everybody understood there was no choice. But as lockdown proceeded, it became more and more difficult to keep these things going.
‘And indeed, we started to relax things... But the pressure from the public was enormous by then to open up, and that stayed there until the summer when we did open right up.
‘My own view was that we needed to look at releasing the economy as quickly as possible. And the quicker we could do that, the better. That was always my view.’
He admitted his argument sounded ‘very cruel and hard’, but pointed to the long-term impact on the economy, particularly the potential loss of jobs and businesses.
Similarly, the inquiry saw a page of handwritten comments by Mr Johnson from November 2020 in
‘Would have kept us there’
which he pondered: ‘What do we really achieve by smashing up the economy if we have no idea how many times we are going to have to do it?’
Lord Lister said he did not believe there was a need for the second and third national lockdowns, and alternatives such as tiering systems ‘weren’t given enough time or chance to succeed’.
He said: ‘The health representatives who attended the various meetings with the PM... I don’t think we would ever come out of lockdown that summer , they would have kept us there.’
The inquiry continues.