Johnson missed 5 key coronavirus meetings, but UK government defends leadership

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A senior British government official defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic following a far-reaching criticism in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove qualified the Sunday Times article – which reported that Johnson had missed five emergency meetings on the virus and accused the government of not ordering or holding protective gear account the warnings of scientists – of “off beam”.

“The idea that the Prime Minister skipped meetings that were vital to our response to the coronavirus, I think is preposterous,” Gove told Sophy Ridge on Sky News Sunday.

“The truth is that there have been meetings across the government, some of which were chaired by the Secretary of Health, others by other ministers, but the Prime Minister has made all the important decisions,” said said Gove.

“No one can say that the Prime Minister did not invest body and soul in the fight against this virus. His leadership was clear. He was sometimes a source of inspiration.”

Speaking later on The BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Gove admitted that Johnson had not attended all five Cobra meetings, but said it was not unusual as these meetings were usually chaired by the secretary State concerned.

Cobra is the colloquial name given to interdepartmental meetings in the Cabinet Office Information Room “A.” Due to the seriousness of these meetings, they are usually chaired by the Prime Minister or another high minister.

Johnson first chaired a Cobra coronavirus meeting on March 2.

Gove added that the Sunday Times article used this information “out of context” and “whipped”. [it] in order to create a “I accuse“Story”.

The Sunday Times report also said that a number of opportunities to reduce the impact of the pandemic had been missed by the British government in January, February and March.

The government has been criticized for shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline health and social service workers and slow start of virus testing.

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday that the government “is working around the clock to fight the coronavirus, proposing a strategy that is designed to protect our NHS and save lives at all times”, and guided by medical and scientific expertise.

“Our response assured that the NHS has received all the support it needs to ensure that everyone in need of treatment receives it, as well as to protect businesses and reassure workers,” the statement said.

“The Prime Minister has led the response to this situation, providing leadership during this extremely difficult time for the whole nation.”

Johnson continues to recover during his official retirement in the country after intensive care treatment for Covid-19.

The Prime Minister is “recovering well” and is “in a good mood,” Gove told Sky.

Gove said Johnson spoke to Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Friday to brief the government.

Johnson continues to follow the advice of his doctors to ensure he “rests and recovers fully,” said Gove. He added that the Prime Minister is “absolutely aware of things”.


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