Boris Johnson has refused to delete WhatsApp messages after it emerged the former prime minister failed to provide notices to the Covid-19 investigation from February to June 2020.

This comes after the Times newspaper reported that Mr Johnson, who will begin two days of questioning at the inquiry on Wednesday, told Lady Hallet’s inquiry that there were technical experts between January 31 and January 7. It was not possible to retrieve WhatsApp messages in June – a period of time. It covers the first days of the pandemic and most of the first lockdown.

Technical experts had been trying to recover messages from his old mobile phone to hand over to the investigation. Mr Johnson was originally told to stop using the device for security reasons after it was revealed his number had been online for years.

He then reportedly forgot the passcode. However, it was reported that technical experts managed to help Mr Johnson recover the messages for the investigation.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency Chief Executive Dr. June Raine during a media briefing in Downing Street (Tolga Akmen/PA)

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

“He didn’t delete any messages.

“The Times report refers to a technical issue in recovering material that needs to be resolved by the technical team.”

Mr Johnson was advised to stop using or accessing the phone during his term as Prime Minister in May 2021 for security reasons.

It turns out his number was freely available online for 15 years.

The device, which he used during crucial periods of the coronavirus pandemic, was believed to contain messages related to the 2020 lockdown order.

Labor leader Nick Thomas-Symonds said it was “typical and will be deeply disappointing for families who have lost loved ones and deserve nothing less than full disclosure”.

The former prime minister is expected to admit during the lengthy hearing that his government made mistakes in its response to the virus but argue that its decisions ultimately saved lives.

Mr Johnson will also insist he followed the advice of scientists and did not lock down the country more quickly because herd immunity was initially preferred, the Telegraph reported.

His governing style at the height of the crisis was sharply criticized by former colleagues, not least his former chief adviser and nemesis Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson had asked scientists whether Covid could be destroyed by blowing a “special hairdryer” up the nose.

He also claimed that Mr Johnson said he would rather “let the bodies pile up” than hit the economy with further restrictions – a claim backed by former senior adviser Lord Udny-Lister but which Mr Johnson had previously denied .

Meanwhile, extracts from the diaries of the government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance suggested Mr Johnson wanted to let Covid “run rampant” and believed it was just “nature’s way of dealing with old people”.

And Cabinet Secretary Simon Case said Mr Johnson and his inner circle were “fundamentally savage”, according to communications submitted to the inquiry.

Other key figures have defended aspects of the former prime minister’s record, including Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove.

The minister countered claims that Mr Johnson wavered in his answer, saying he “preferred gladiator decision-making to inquisitorial decision-making” and had two or three different cases “rehearsed before his eyes”.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock said Mr Cummings tried to wrest power from Mr Johnson and created a “toxic” culture at the heart of the government that undermined its response to the pandemic.

He also suggested that Mr Johnson had been under “enormous pressure” from then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak not to impose another lockdown.

In an excerpt from his written statement released in January, the former prime minister said it was his “duty” to assess whether the lockdown had done more harm than good.

He said that the government at the time “simply didn’t have good options” but that he “always gave human life and public health the highest priority.”

On Tuesday, the Liberal Democrats reiterated their call for the government to comment on the cost of Mr Johnson’s taxpayer-funded legal fees for the inquiry.

The party’s Cabinet Office spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “Boris Johnson has already racked up thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded legal fees during the Partygate inquiry.

“It is an insult to the bereaved families that the government is not telling us how much is being spent on Johnson’s legal fees for the Covid investigation.

“Rishi Sunak must now deal with the British people before more taxpayers’ money is spent paying Boris Johnson’s legal costs.”

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