Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing criticism after he was pictured visiting Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland on Monday without a mask.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was labelled “idiotic, irresponsible and reckless” as #WearAMask trended on Twitter after he was pictured without a mask during a visit to Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland on Monday, amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Following the backlash, this morning the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, defended Johnson and said he was following the guidance at all times. “I know the prime minister took the advice on the clinical setting that he was in and followed all the protocols and procedures that were applied there and that’s what everyone should,” he told BBC host Sally Nugent.
“The right thing to do in all of those settings is take the advice that you’ve got, follow the guidance very carefully and I know that’s what the prime minister did.”
However, Nugent then read out the specific guidance issued by the hospital in question, which stated: “Anyone attending our hospitals and community settings must continue to wear a face covering at all times to protect patients, visitors and staff.”
Raab responded: “My understanding is that the prime minister followed all the guidance that was given to him from the moment he was at the hospital and obviously in the different settings that he visited and that’s right.”
On Twitter, the Northumbria NHS Trust wrote in a statement: “Please be assured that infection prevention and control remains an utmost priority for our Trust. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.”
Johnson was pictured wearing a mask at some points of the hospital visit, such as when watching a patient receive their Covid vaccination.
Many voices online are considering Johnson’s choice not to wear a mask a “slap in the face” for NHS workers currently battling an increase in hospitalisations and Covid-19 cases, particularly after the government’s repeated message to “protect the NHS” during the previous lockdowns.
“They’re just laughing at us now,” wrote one angry Twitter user.
“How is it acceptable for Boris Johnson to walk around a hospital and meet NHS staff without wearing a mask!? He actually doesn’t care at all does he!?” added another.
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, accused the prime minister of “irresponsibly parading round a hospital without a mask” and added: “NHS staff deserve better than this.”
Consultant geriatrician Adelina McLeod wrote: “Thanks Boris for making our job of enforcing mask wearing in clinical areas for patients and public easier by setting this great example in Hexham General Hospital”.
Last week, the prime minister was also criticised for attending the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow and not wearing a mask as he sat alongside 95-year-old environmentalist and presenter Sir David Attenborough.
According to official figures, on 8 November 2021, 32,322 new Covid-19 cases were reported along with 57 deaths, adding to 1,191 deaths within 28 days of positive test in the last 7 days.