“What we didn’t know in particular was that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically.”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

April 30, 2022

Facts

When trying to justify the Government’s decision to discharge hospital patients to care homes at the start of the pandemic, which was ruled to have been unlawful, Boris Johnson said: “What we didn’t know in particular was that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically.”

But SAGE minutes from 28 January 2020 show that the government was warned that some asymptomatic transmission was occurring. It said that Public Health England was “developing a paper on this”. 

And speaking to BBC Radio 4 on 13 March 2020,  Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government Patrick Vallance said: “It looks quite likely that there is some degree of asymptomatic transmission.”

And at a Covid press briefing on March 18, Boris Johnson described the disease as “an invisible enemy”, adding: “we don’t know who is transmitting it”. 

On March 25, at another briefing, Mr Johnson said: “On the numbers of people who have the disease asymptomatically, there was a study I saw quoted from some Oxford academics saying that as many as 50% may have had it asymptomatically”.

I-news collated a list of 20 instances where the Government and its advisers warned of asymptomatic transmission. 

Verdict

It is true that Boris Johnson and the government may not have known for certain at the time that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically.  But it had grounds for suspecting this might be the case. 

We approached Boris Johnson's office, No10 Press Office and the Cabinet Office to give them a chance to comment, but received no response.

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