Channel 4’s Dispatches has exposed the reality of how Boris Johnson acted in the lead up to the UK’s Lockdown, and how many lives could have been saved if the UK was locked down faster.

Exercise Cygnus

Dispatches spoke to former Conservative minister, Doctor Phillip Green who took part in the Governments ‘Exercise Cygnus’, a ‘wargame’ exercise which simulated a large-scale Influenza pandemic entering the UK. The 2016 wargame showed if a serious Influenza pandemic hit the UK there would be a lack of protective equipment and ventilators. The government was advised to prepare for a pandemic hitting the UK by building a stockpile of ‘quality PPE’ and ventilators. While the UK did order PPE and ventilators, this did happen until the pandemic spread to the UK.


In February, Boris Johnson and Carrie Simmons were living at Dominic Raab’s property in Kent, claiming to be on a ‘working holiday’ and not trying to avoid the Virus. While at Grayson, aids were told to cut down documents which the Prime Minister was to read or he wouldn’t read them. Boris was said to be ‘out of his depth’ and ‘overworked’.

Dominic Raabs country house where Boris and Carrie stayed at start of pandemic
Dominic Raabs country house where Boris and Carrie stayed at start of pandemic

‘Herd immunity’

Dispatches also reported that the Italian health minister Pierpaolo Sileri told Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte on March 13 that ‘Boris Johnson wanted herd immunity in the UK’.

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte

Sileri told Dispatches “I spoke with Conte to tell President Conte that I’d tested positive” ‘and he told me that he’d spoken with Boris Johnson and he told me that he wants herd immunity’. He goes on to say “I remember that after hanging up, I said to myself that I hope Boris Johnson goes for a lockdown.”

The angry president

In the days leading up to the Lockdown, Boris Johnson is said to have received an angry phone call from French President, Emmanuel Macron. In this phone call, Macron told Boris that if the country did not act to stop the spread of Coronavirus in the UK, France would close all borders with the country.

Boris Johnson alleged that other countries locked down were not using science : Channel 4 dispatches

Following the phone call with Macron, Johnson announced that pubs ‘should’ close. The lack of clarity in Prime Minister Johnson’s advice led to many in the UK to ignore the rules, with large gatherings such as the Cheltenham festival still taking place. After a week of ‘ambiguity’ and large-scale confusion, Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown on 23rd March.

cheltenham festival took place at start of pandemic
cheltenham festival took place at start of pandemic

Could more lives have been saved?

Dispatches asked independent Health Analyst, George Batchelor, to look at the available figures and work out how many deaths could have been avoided up to the end of April. The UK has been locked down since 23rd March.

Batchelor’s analysis found that If Boris Johnson had locked the UK down a week earlier, around 8,000 hospital deaths up to the end of April could have been avoided, and if the lockdown had happened four days earlier 13,000 hospital deaths could have been prevented up to the end of April.

40,000 Coronavirus deaths in the UK.

It is expected the UK’s total Coronavirus deaths (reported by Government) will cross the 40, 000 threshold. This week it was also reported by the ONS that 62,000 ‘excess-deaths’ have occurred during the pandemic, a number that is likely to go up.

The government have hit back at this report, with a ‘Government spokesperson’ saying: “This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it. The Government has been very clear that herd immunity has never been our policy or goal.”

Government-issued this statement.

The Government excuse