"Boris Johnson was distracted by family life instead of preparing for Covid," says public health professor

10 June 2020, 16:26

By Fiona Jones

This public health professor told James O'Brien that the UK lost a crucial month preparing for coronavirus as the Prime Minister was distracted by his "chaotic" family life.

Public health expert Professor John Ashton told James O'Brien in March that the government's coronavirus response was "appalling" and returned to LBC to reflect on the months following.

Professor Ashton branded February as a "lost month" for the UK where no action was taken.

"What do you think explains the fact that February was the mother of all missed opportunities?" James asked him.

"As always with disasters...it's a number of factors that converge and I think you've got to look at the personality of the Prime Minister. He's very laid back, he doesn't really believe in intervention and his personal life's been chaotic," Professor Ashton said.

"He was dealing with that, he was dealing with a divorce, he was dealing with this new relationship. We've subsequently learnt his new partner was pregnant, he went on holiday, he was exuberant about leaving the European Union.

"He seems to have been distracted basically and took his eye off the ball throughout the month because he didn't attend the COBRA meetings until the one he went to and chaired on 2 March."

Public health expert:"Boris Johnson was distracted by family life so UK lost a month of Covid preparation"
Public health expert:"Boris Johnson was distracted by family life so UK lost a month of Covid preparation". Picture: LBC/PA

James asked the public health expert his opinion on the government's current coronavirus strategy.

"The bottom line is we shouldn't be easing up until we've got the testing tracing and isolating properly secured and we still haven't," he responded, "these are all things that we really should have got bottomed before we move to any easing off. And I would say that's at the end of June before we should have done that."

Professor Ashton told James he is concerned about the education situation: "This is going to produce a terrible injustice for a lot of children, particularly from poorer families who have not been able to maintain their education over the last couple of months."

Instead he suggested the education system should be radically changed to restart school years in January and end in December -- a step that has been considered over the years.

The next six months could be used to create innovative means of catch-up for all students, especially those sitting exams next year, he said.