Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, received heavy criticism after visiting the Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland on the 8th of November. The PM visited the hospital in an effort to reinforce the Government’s message to persuade old and vulnerable people to accept the offer of a Covid booster.
While this is a generally good cause, the criticism came after many pictures surfaced that show Boris Johnson walking around the hospital without a mask. There are pictures in which he does wear a mask, but in the given situation and especially considering the message he wanted to reinforce, him appearing without one was received with backlash.
Harsh reactions to Boris Johnson refusing to wear a mask
Jonathan Ashworth, the Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, linked these images of Boris Johnson to his decision to not return from this visit in time to participate in the Commons parliamentary standards debate. He shared the following on his Twitter account: “So not only is Boris Johnson too cowardly to turn up to Parliament to defend the sleazy, corrupt government shenanigans of recent days. He’s now irresponsibly parading around a hospital without a mask. Patients and NHS staff deserve better than this.”
The Prime Minister was accused by a representative for Covid-19 Families for Justice of unnecessarily putting lives at risk during his hospital visit.
Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Health Secretary, also commented on the pictures of Johnson wearing no face coverings. He deemed the PM’s actions as showing an “astounding level of irresponsibility” and continued by saying that it is a “complete and utter lack of leadership”.
Anna Soubry, former Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, went even further and stated that Boris Johnson is exempt from wearing a mask because he is above the rules. This ironic comment was followed by the conclusion that he is arrogant, ignorant, and “the worst PM ever”.
Of course, the most criticism received by Johnson comes from the media, as many renowned and respected British publications and news channels covered his irresponsible action.
The consequences of the UK Prime Minister not wearing a mask
This is undoubtedly affecting the Prime Minister’s image as well as that of the Conservative Party. Even prior to this visit, Boris Johnson was not doing well in the polls. A high percentage of respondents were not approving of the UK’s current PM, and he was ranked the second most liked Conservative politician after Rishi Sunak.
A bit over a month before the Hexham General Hospital visit, a poll shows Boris Johnson is deemed incompetent by 57% of the respondents, and only 29% see him as competent. These results are identical to those obtained two months prior, which means that the eligible voters’ opinion of the Prime Minister is consistent.
Based on these polls and the criticism he is currently facing, the odds of Boris Johnson being Prime Minister again or even remaining in this position until the next General Election are very low.
While these are possible consequences, and it may take time to determine whether or not they will end up affecting Johnson’s premiership, others have happened almost immediately after the photos appeared in the media. For example, a General Practitioner at the Manor View Practice shared on Twitter that one of their patients refused to wear a mask because the PM did not wear one. The patient even became aggressive, and the altercation almost became physical.
Hexham Hospital bosses defend Boris Johnson
After being heavily criticized by the media, doctors, and other politicians, Boris Johnson received support from the Hexham Hospital bosses when questioned about the PM’s controversial visit.
They stated that soon after the photos showing Johnson without a mask were taken, an aide handed him a mask which he did put on. The Prime Minister is also not wearing a mask while being interviewed on television, but the hospital bosses say that this was with the agreement of everyone in the room at that moment.
Their mask-wearing rules are very clear, and they stated that infection prevention and control is taken very seriously and is of utmost priority. They added that the Prime Minister wore a mask for most of the visit, and the pictures showing him without one were taken during a short walk along a mezzanine corridor after he left a welcome meeting.
In spite of these statements, reports say that Boris Johnson was warned three times that he needs to wear a mask before he put one on. He and his team were informed via email about the mask-wearing rules prior to the visit and then asked to wear one two times during the visit.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also defends Johnson, stating that he followed all NHS protocols and procedures.
Clearly, the United Kingdom Prime Minister’s actions sparked controversy and a wave of criticism coming from voters and also politicians, doctors, and the media. This goes against Johnson’s efforts to convince vulnerable and older people to get a Covid booster, and the effects are already seen on the polls, as now only 30% of respondents approved of the job he is doing, while 51% disapproved.