Maskless Boris Johnson sparks mask row by posing with NURSES

Boris Johnson ‘breaks hospital rules’ by posing mask-free for pictures alongside nurses with their faces fully covered as he avoided Commons sleaze debate

  • He posed with masked nurses at Hexham General Hospital on visit yesterday
  • Management said he ‘followed strict measures’ including masks in clinical areas
  • But its website says visitors should ‘wear a face covering … until you leave’

Boris Johnson is at the centre of a face coverings row today after going mask-free on a visit to a hospital.

The Prime Minister posed with masked nurses at Hexham General Hospital in pictures that sparked a furore on social media last night.

His visit came as he avoided a debate on Tory sleaze in the House of Commons some 300 miles to the south. 

Hospital management insisted that he had ‘followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.’

But rules for visitors posted on its website tells them to ‘wear a face covering when you enter the hospital until you leave’.  

Labour’s shadow health secretary linked the mask-less images to Mr Johnson’s decision not to return from the visit in time to take part in the debate on parliamentary standards, after his Government U-turned last week on its move to rip up the current probe system to investigate MP wrongdoing.

Jonathan Ashworth said on Twitter: ‘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 round a hospital without a mask. Patients and NHS staff deserve better than this.’    

The Prime Minister posed with masked nurses at Hexham General Hospital in pictures that sparked a furore on social media last night.

Hospital management insisted that he had ‘followed strict measures, including wearing a mask, in each clinical area he visited.’

But rules for visitors posted on its website tells them to ‘wear a face covering when you enter the hospital until you leave’.

In photos where he is without a mask, Mr Johnson is seen elbow-bumping and greeting nurses who are wearing disposable face coverings.

Mr Johnson visited the Northumberland unit yesterday to reinforce the Government’s messaging behind persuading more vulnerable and older people to take up the offer of a Covid booster jab.

Downing Street said it was a long-standing trip in his diary after facing questions about whether it was being used to allow him to skip the sleaze debate. 

During the visit, pictures showed him going about the hospital without a face covering – while wearing a mask at other times.

In photos where he is without a mask, Mr Johnson is seen elbow-bumping and greeting nurses who are wearing disposable face coverings.

Matthew Taylor, the head of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service hospitals, told Sky: ‘The Prime Minister is an incredibly influential figure and what he does is important. 

‘I think it was unfortunate that he was seen in a hospital setting not wearing a mask, because I think this hospital, like every hospital, encourages people to be wearing masks, not just in wards but in the hospital as a whole.’ 

However, Downing Street and the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Hexham General, defended the Prime Minister following the visit.

Replying to a complaint about Mr Johnson appearing without a mask in a photo, Northumbria NHS said on social media: ‘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.’ 

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab was read the guidance from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Hexham General Hospital, on the wearing of face coverings.

But he  insisted the Prime Minister had followed the rules on his visit, telling the BBC: ‘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 do.’

Asked about the guidance specifically and whether that meant he was not following the rules, Mr Raab said: ‘No, precisely because, as you said, in the settings where it was required he did wear a mask.’

Questioned by reporters on whether Mr Johnson had broken the rules, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘During a hospital visit, we always make sure we abide by the rules set out.

‘He will have been abiding by the rules in place.’

It is the second time in the past eight days that No 10 has had to field questions about Mr Johnson’s mask wearing habits.

Last week, his official spokesman was asked why the Conservative Party leader had opted not to cover his mouth and nose when sat next to renowned natural historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who is 95 years old, at the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

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