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Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admits COVID mistakes

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-12-07 05:36

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside the Dorland House on the day he gives evidence at the UK COVID-19 Inquiry, in London, Britain, Dec 6, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON -- Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Boris Johnson admitted on Wednesday that he made mistakes during the COVID-19 pandemic and was "deeply sorry," but he insisted the mistakes were inevitable.

"Can I say that I understand the feelings of the victims and their families, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and the loss and the suffering of those victims and their families," Johnson said as he began two days of questioning by lawyers for a judge-led inquiry about his handling of the pandemic while serving as prime minister.

"Inevitably, in the course of trying to handle a very, very difficult pandemic in which we had to balance appalling harms on either side of the decision, we may have made mistakes," he said. "Inevitably, we got some things wrong. I think we were doing our best at the time."

Johnson was forced to step down in mid-2022 after support for him evaporated over the "partygate" scandal. He was fined by the police for attending a party in 2020 during the country's COVID-19 lockdown, becoming the first serving UK prime minister in history to break the law. Revelations of him and his employees reveling in booze-fueled parties in 2020 and 2021 at Downing Street infuriated the British public.

COVID-19 killed more than 230,000 people in the UK, one of the highest death tolls in Europe.

The COVID-19 inquiry is chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a former Court of Appeal judge. The inquiry is split into four areas: resilience and preparedness; core UK decision making and political governance; the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare systems; vaccines, therapeutics and antiviral treatment.

Hallett said she intends to publish the report on the first area of work by early summer 2024.

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