Covid Inquiry watch LIVE: Boris Johnson about to begin giving evidence over his handling of pandemic

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is appearing at the Covid Inquiry on what is expected to be a bombshell day of evidence.

He led the country throughout the pandemic, and Module 2 of the inquiry will scrutinise his decisions at the time.

Questioning is set to focus on lockdown timings and the reported “toxic” environment in Downing Street, as well as the boozy illegal gatherings which ultimately led to Mr Johnson’s downfall.

The ex-PM arrived three hours early for the first of two days of expected testimony.

It meant he avoided protesters who began gathering outside the inquiry building in Paddington shortly before 8am.

Follow latest updates below...

Live updates

2 minutes ago

'Basically feral': What's been heard so far...

The inquiry has heard a lot about Boris Johnson's style of leadership.

His former senior adviser Dominic Cummings claimed Mr Johnson asked scientists whether Covid could be destroyed by blowing a "special hairdryer" up people's noses.

He also alleged that the ex-PM said he would rather "let the bodies pile high" than hit the economy with further restrictions - a claim supported by former senior aide Lord Udny-Lister, but which Mr Johnson has previously denied.

Meanwhile, extracts from the diaries of former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance suggested Mr Johnson wanted to let Covid "rip" and believed it was just "nature's way of dealing with old people".

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said Mr Johnson and his inner circle were "basically feral", in messages shown to the inquiry.

But other key figures have defended aspects of his record, including Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

In an extract of his written statement published in January, Mr Johnson said it was his "duty" to weigh up whether lockdown had done more harm than good.

Boris Johnson arriving at the inquiry
AFP via Getty Images
24 minutes ago

Missing messages

Ahead of his appearance Boris Johnson has denied deleting WhatsApp messages.

It's emerged he had not been able to provide the inquiry with any communications from February to June 2020 - when Britain was plunged into the first Covid lockdown.

Technical experts had been trying to recover messages from his old mobile phone to hand them to the inquiry.

Mr Johnson was originally told to stop using the device over security concerns after it emerged his number had been online for years.

He then reportedly forgot the passcode, but it was believed that technical experts had succeeded in helping him recover messages for the inquiry.

The Times revealed that he has not been able to provide the inquiry with any communications spanning the early days of the pandemic and most of the first lockdown.

The paper reported that he told Baroness Heather Hallet's inquiry that technical experts have not been able to retrieve WhatsApp messages from between January 31 and June 7 2020.

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: "Boris Johnson has fully co-operated with the inquiry's disclosure process and has submitted hundreds of pages of material.

"He has not deleted any messages.

"The Times report refers to a technical issue in recovery of material that is for the technical team to address."

46 minutes ago

Protesters gather at inquiry

Boris Johnson arrived three hours early for his appearance at the inquiry.

It meant he just dodged the groups of protesters that have gathered outside.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives evidence to UK COVID Inquiry in London
Protesters outside the inquiry held pictures of relatives who died during the pandemic
A protester holds a placard reading "Johnson partied while people died" in front of the entrance of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry building in Paddington
AFP via Getty Images
57 minutes ago

'Let the bodies pile high'

Policing minister Chris Philp is on the morning media round ahead of Boris Johnson's grilling at the Covid inquiry.

He defended the ex-PM's record during the pandemic telling Sky News: "We were in uncharted territory and he was trying, as far as I can see, to make the right decisions in a very difficult, fast-moving situation."

But he added: "There's no doubt, of course, looking back with hindsight you can look at things and say 'well, that could have been done better'."

Mr Philp also said that if Mr Johnson had made the reported "let the bodies pile high" comment during the pandemic that would have been "inappropriate" and the wrong language for a leader to use.

"If he did say it, I think it was inappropriate and wrong language, even if used in a private meeting," Mr Philp said.

Policing Minister Chris Philp