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Boris Johnson denies using ‘let the bodies pile high’ phrase during pandemic

Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves Dorland House in London after giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Victoria Jones/PA)
Former prime minister Boris Johnson leaves Dorland House in London after giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (Victoria Jones/PA)

Boris Johnson has denied claims that he used the phrase “let the bodies pile high” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The former prime minister dismissed as “absurd” the claim by former top aide Dominic Cummings in his 233-page witness statement to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry published after he had given verbal evidence on Thursday.

He told Lady Hallett’s probe: “I am accused — by the usual sources — of saying that I would rather ‘let the bodies pile high’ than impose another lockdown.

“As I have already said on the record, I did not say this. What makes this especially absurd is that I am supposed to have said it on 31 October 2020, when the decision to lock down had in fact already been taken.”

Mr Cummings, who has been a frequent and colourful critic of Mr Johnson since leaving Number 10, alleged that Mr Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile high” than hit the economy with further restrictions – a claim supported by former senior aide Lord Udny-Lister.

Protesters outside the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Thursday
Protesters outside the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Thursday (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Johnson also rejected the suggestion that he considered injecting himself with Covid-19 on TV to show it did not pose a threat.

“The later suggestion that, in around March 2020, I volunteered to be injected with the virus on live TV. I reject and attach little credence to the source of that account,” he told the inquiry.

The former prime minister completed two days of at-times combative and emotional evidence on Thursday evening, leaving the inquiry centre at Dorland House in west London to jeers from protesters.

He used his evidence to insist he was not “reconciled” to Covid deaths or believed it necessary to “let it rip” in the autumn of 2020.

Mr Johnson also lashed out at some of the “absolutely absurd” characterisations of the partygate debacle which he labelled a “travesty of the truth”.