Michael Gove hits out at reports Boris Johnson skipped coronavirus meetings
Senior minister Michael Gove has defended Boris Johnson’s efforts during the coronavirus crisis after an explosive report claimed the Prime Minister missed a series of coronavirus Cobra meetings.
The Sunday Times reported today that Johnson missed five of the crisis meetings in late January and early February when the coronavirus first began to spread outside of China.
It also reported that the health service was unprepared for the outbreak, despite having an in-depth pandemic response plan drawn up and despite a pandemic ranking atop the government’s National Risk Register.
Gove, Cabinet Office minister and a part of the “quad” of four senior ministers handling the crisis, said the Sunday Times report had some “off-beam elements” to it and that it was “grotesque” to say the Prime Minister was ignoring the crisis.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “The characterisation of Cobra is wrong.
“Most Cobra meetings don’t have the Prime Minster attending them – that is the whole point. Cobra meetings are led by the relevant secretary of state in their relevant area.
“It is also the case that the health secretary, or whoever was chairing those meetings, reports to the prime minister, the prime minster is aware of all these decisions and takes some of these decisions.”
Shadow health secretary was quick to dismiss Gove’s explanation as the “weakest rebuttal of a detailed exposé in British political history”.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “None of us expect the impossible, we understand that mistakes will be made in a crisis of this nature.
“But there are serious questions as to why the Prime Minister skipped five Cobra meetings throughout February when the whole world could see how serious this was becoming.
“And we know serious mistakes have been made. We know that our frontline NHS staff don’t have the PPE. They’ve been told this weekend they won’t necessarily have the gowns which will keep them safe. “