London, April 26
A British minister on Monday flatly denied a report that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would rather bodies piled “high in their thousands” than order a third social and economic lockdown to stem coronavirus infections.
Johnson is facing a stream of allegations in newspapers about everything from his muddled initial handling of the COVID-19 crisis to questions over who financed the redecoration of his official apartment.
The Daily Mail newspaper cited unidentified sources as saying that, in October, shortly after agreeing to a second lockdown, Johnson told a meeting in Downing Street: “No more f***ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News: “It’s not true.”
“We’re getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories. You know — unnamed sources by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events. You know – look – none of this is serious,” Wallace said.
The Daily Mail did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said he was astonished to read the newspaper’s report.
“If he did say those things, he’s got to explain it,” he told broadcasters.
Johnson did impose a third lockdown, in January, though critics say it could have been avoided had he yielded to pressure from senior ministers to make the second lockdown more stringent.
Britain has the world’s fifth worst official COVID-19 death toll, with 127,681 deaths, after the United States, Brazil, Mexico and India, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
Johnson under fire
After Downing Street named Johnson’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, as the source of leaks against the prime minister, Cummings hit back on Friday, denying he was the source and casting Johnson as incompetent and lacking in integrity.