Robert Peston ‘gobsmacked’ by Boris Johnson claim as he points to email from February 11

Mr Peston, who is the political editor at ITV, took to Twitter this morning to express his disbelief concerning a report by The Sunday Times. The disclosure by the newspaper alleges Mr Johnson skipped out on five emergency COBRA meetings concerning the virus, and that his Government ignored warnings from scientific advisers as early as February. Mr Peston also drew attention to an email he sent to his colleagues at ITV on February 11 concerning the virus.

He tweeted: “On 11 February, I emailed ITV colleagues that a senior government source had told me ‘we should know within a fortnight or so if we are looking at a pandemic in the UK. The risk is 60 percent of the population getting it. With the mortality rate of perhaps just over 1%, we are looking at not far off 500k deaths.’

“Ministers knew by 2nd week of February the gravity of what confronted us. So I am literally gobsmacked by The Sunday Times’ disclosure that the PM was not prioritising the looming coronavirus catastrophe till March.”

Mr Peston also added senior health experts knew of the threat of COVID-19 on January 22, a date he remembers due to discussing the issue on his self-titled show.

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The Sunday Times recently published the damning investigative report into the Government’s actions in the days leading up to the explosion of COVID-19 cases in the UK.

In the report, journalists state Mr Johnson skipped five emergency COBRA meetings which were convened to tackle the spread of the disease.

A senior adviser broke ranks to speak to The Sunday Times, blaming the crisis on a failure of leadership by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

The source told the newspaper: “There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there.

“And what you learn about Boris was he didn’t chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn’t work weekends. It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago.

“There was a real sense that he didn’t do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be.”

The report also states calls to order protective gear were ignored, with warnings from scientists falling on deaf ears.

It is asserted failings over five weeks from the Government may have cost thousands of lives in Britain.

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However, a senior Government minister has refuted the idea Mr Johnson missed meetings.

Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, this morning described the assertion as grotesque while speaking on Sky News.

The Government has come under increased scrutiny this morning as a result of The Sunday Times report.

BorisResign, alongside #BorisMustGo has trended on Twitter, with many calling for an inquiry to take place to analyse the Government’s response to the crisis.

However, some have also criticised this idea.

Gavin Barwell, former Chief of Staff to Theresa May, condemned the suggestion of focusing on an inquiry at this point in time.

He tweeted: “I despair at my timeline this morning. We are a few weeks into a crisis that has months – possibly years – to run and people are already trying to conduct the inquiry that will come afterwards.

“Is it too much to ask that we focus on what to do now rather than who to blame?”

Other prominent figures, citing The Sunday Times report, have criticised the Government response.

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davy described the report as a “chronology of inaction and complacency from January through to March”.

And Piers Morgan tweeted: “So let me get this straight: we’re all apparently having to wait for Boris Johnson to return to work to make any big decisions re Britain’s coronavirus strategy.

“The same Boris Johnson whose shameful complacency ensured all our decisions to date have been late or wrong?”

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation.”

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