The man in the invisible mask

Johnson says he wears one while demonstrating that he doesn’t

Johnson says he wears one while demonstrating that he doesn’t

“I wear a mask wherever the rules say that I should,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, answering questions at a Press briefing when it was highlighted that he had failed to do precisely that when visiting Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland. Never one to shy away from a photo op, the Prime Minister was filmed and pictured at the hospital, strolling along corridors, bumping elbows and chatting to nurses and staff despite not having his face covered. Everyone else was wearing a mask but Johnson was not. Hospital bosses said later that he was “formally advised and reminded” of current hospital rules which state that “anyone attending our hospitals and community settings must continue to wear a face-covering at all times to protect patients, visitors and staff.” The rules were even included in the written programme for the visit, but maybe the Prime Minister didn’t have time to read the programme. He did mask up after the reminder, but when questioned about the incident, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab incorrectly stated that “he followed all the guidance that he had for that and he was wearing a mask in the areas where it was required.” 

Johnson has also insisted that he did not put 95-year-old beloved broadcaster and national treasure Sir David Attenborough at risk by failing to wear a mask while sitting next to him at the COP26 summit. Surrounded by world leaders all wearing masks, Johnson was pictured apparently dozing and maskless, while seated between Sir David and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. The Prime Minister claimed later that he wears a mask “when in confined spaces with people that I don’t usually meet.” Contrary to that statement, photos from the conference show him maskless while in close confines with world leaders and others in the high-risk category, including the 79-year-old President of the USA Joe Biden. New cases of Covid in the UK are consistently at around 30,000 daily, and deaths regularly number 200 or more, with the virus rampant in many confined locations including Parliament. Authorities there have cancelled receptions and urged MPs to wear masks in the Commons chamber to limit the spread of the virus. So is Johnson doing enough? The Prime Minister recently refused to rule out another lockdown if Covid numbers rise further, and repeated advice for the public to follow the current guidance. The question is whether he personally is leading by example, or is he merely the man in the invisible mask? In our recent survey on the issue, it is clear that the public on the whole are unimpressed with the PM’s excuses and would rather he put on an actual mask when appropriate. Even before the Downing Street party scandal broke, asked whether the Prime Minister’s behaviour gave the impression that he was above the law, more than 67% of our readers felt that it did. Given the pressure he is now under within his own party, he might consider trying to change that impression.

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