Boris Johnson has admitted he should not have shaken hands with patients during a hospital visit during the early days of the pandemic.
Giving evidence to the official UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Wednesday, he conceded he should have been more “precautionary” at the time.
At a press conference in early March 2020, the then-prime minister boasted that he was continuing to greet people with a handshake.
“I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients. And I shook hands with everybody you’ll be pleased to know,” he told the presser.
Mr Johnson acknowledged this was a mistake when lead counsel to the inquiry Hugo Keith KC asked him about shaking hands with Covid patients at the Royal Free Hospital in north London on March 1 2020.
The former premier told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry: “I shouldn’t have done that, in retrospect, and I should have been more precautionary – but I wanted to be encouraging to people.”
He indicated he was not aware of official advice advising against such greetings.
That is despite No 10’s scientific advisers having urged his government to issue a public message against shaking hands on the same day of his March 3 press conference.
Mr Johnson still made a point of shaking hands with TV presenter Phillip Schofield and others days later.
Weeks later, the then-prime minister was struck down by coronavirus.