Edwina Currie has sparked a backlash by defending the government on Good Morning Britain, when speaking to host Susanna Reid about the government’s handling of the pandemic.
As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, Reid began to reel off Boris Johnson’s many failures in tackling the coronavirus pandemic – such as missing COBRA meetings, not shutting down mass gatherings, carrying on shaking hands, and the failures over PPE and Test and Trace.
Currie – a Thatcher-era Tory health minister – responded: “This time last year, absolutely nobody ... had any experience of anything like this.
“We had no idea it was so infectious, we had no idea it was so lethal. We did our best,” she added.
“The prime minister shook hands as a reflection of what Diana did during the HIV problems, do you remember those? When Diana went into the hospitals in order to shake hands with patients and to say to them ‘you are not being stigmatised’. That, I think, is what he was doing.”
Social media users have hit back at Currie’s comments.
It follows a BBC report suggesting ministers are “frustrated” with some of Johnson’s decisions during the pandemic. As one example, the report said Johnson had been told by his advisers not to shake hands ahead of a 3 March press conference – during which he “boasted he ‘shook hands with everybody’ during a hospital visit”.
Paul Brand, UK editor at ITV News, said: “The difference being that HIV is not transmissible via a handshake.”
“Has it not learnt from @DrHilaryJones‘s mistake?
“Our patron Diana, Princess of Wales, was committed to educating people about HIV, not perpetuating misinformation.”
Currie was formerly a junior health minister under Margaret Thatcher’s administration, working amid the AIDS epidemic.
In 1986, she infamously stated: “Good Christian people who wouldn’t dream of misbehaving will not catch AIDS.”
Following her comments today, one Twitter user said: “A reminder that Tories have ALWAYS been full of crap. Never to blame for anything, they’d have you believe.”
And another said: “Potentially the most offensive statement I have read about Covid, you cannot use HIV as a get out of jail card holy s***”.