Boris Johnson plans onslaught on obesity as part of UK’s recovery agenda


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson views the current crisis as “an opportunity” to make people adopt healthy lifestyles, and is convinced the time is apt to “get Britain on its bike”. (File photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson views the current crisis as “an opportunity” to make people adopt healthy lifestyles, and is convinced the time is apt to “get Britain on its bike”. (File photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

BORIS JOHNSON is planning a “war” on obesity as part of his national Covid-19 recovery agenda, with a focus on “helping people to live healthier and more active lives”.

The prime minister is set to adopt a “much more interventionist” approach in tackling obesity, the Times reported on Friday (16).

Johnson had been seen as an opponent of “nanny state” interventions, such as the “sin taxes”. He seemed to have had a rethink about his stand, considering the health risks due to obesity.

The prime minister reportedly told senior ministers and advisers, “I’ve changed my mind on this”. Reports noted that he was “convinced” that his weight had been a key factor that landed him in intensive care.

James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, wrote in a column for the Times that Johnson had remarked “it’s all right for you thinnies” while discussing the pandemic in Downing Street.

He had also recently suggested that not being a “fatty in your fifties” could reduce vulnerability to Covid-19.

Notably, preliminary research had said obesity doubled the risk of hospitalisation due Covid-19 complications. Obesity is also associated with health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, too.

Recent official figures said at least 25 per cent Covid-19 patients who had died in England suffered from diabetes. Experts, however, have cautioned against rushing to conclusions.

Johnson’s planned ‘intervention’ comes at a time when studies have found one in three British adults to be “clinically obese”, with a body mass index over 30.

The prime minister views the current crisis as “an opportunity” to encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles.

Sources said he believes the time is apt to “get Britain on its bike”.

“As we outlined in our recovery strategy, this government will invest in preventive and personalised solutions to ill health, helping people to live healthier and more active lives,” said Johnson’s spokesman.

“You have heard the PM speak on a number of occasions about the importance he attaches to cycling.”

He added that it was “critical to understand how factors such as ethnicity, deprivation, age, gender and obesity could be disproportionately impacting how people are affected by coronavirus”.

“Public Health England launched a review into the factors affecting health outcomes from coronavirus, to include ethnicity, gender and obesity, and this will be published by the end of May,” he said.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth welcomed Johnson’s change of mind.

“We’ve repeatedly warned of the long-term health risks of obesity,” he said. “If the prime minister now supports extending the sugar tax and banning junk food advertising before the watershed, then that’s a welcome conversion. We are facing an obesity crisis, and decisive action is urgently needed.”