Boris Johnson fails to pronounce coronavirus drug six times in briefing gaffe


The Prime Minister struggled to pronounce the name of a life-saving coronavirus drug in his latest gaffe.

Boris Johnson stumbled about six times as he tried to say ‘tocilizumab’ live on air in tonight’s Downing Street briefing.

Determined to get it right, he appealed for help from England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, asking “what’s the name of that drug again?”

“Let’s get this right,” the PM said, as he repeatedly got it wrong.

The PM grinned sheepishly as he butchered the name of the drug.

He then spent a considerable part of the briefing distracted by the name of the breakthrough treatment, after pausing to ask: “What’s the name of that drug again, Chris?”



UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rests his chin on his hand during a Covid-19 media briefing in Downing Street on February 15
“Let’s get this right,” the PM said, as he repeatedly got it wrong

‘Tocilizumab,’ Prof Whitty tells him before muttering quietly: “It doesn’t matter.”

Mr Johnson asks: “Say again?”

‘Tocilizumab,” replies Prof Whitty.

The PM then repeatedly mangles its name.

He says: “Toc. Tocizzy, toc we’re going to get this right. Toczulu, is it toczulumab?”

“Something like that,” Prof Whitty replies.

“Tocilizumab folks,” the PM declares, after calling it “toc” again.

“That’s the one.”

Determined to trot out the correct pronunciation again, Mr Johnson tells the press briefing: “Tocilizumab. OK. Good.”

The NHS last week revealed the success of a clinical trial involving the use of the arthritis drug on coronavirus patients.



UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty arrive for a coronavirus briefing
Professor Chris Whitty could be heard to mutter “it doesn’t matter”

The drug is being hailed as a life-saving treatment – especially when used alongside dexamethasone.

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Death rates of patients who received tocilizumab fell by 15% – and at even higher rates when used alongside dexamethasone – the first drug previously shown to save lives of Covid patients.

The combination reduced deaths by a third in patients who remained conscious but needed oxygen support.

And when used on patients in a coma on a ventilator then death rates were reduced by almost half.

The gaffe-prone PM, who has perfected his bumbling persona as a political trademark, has delivered some memorable daily Downing Street briefing stumbles.



UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a Covid-19 media briefing in Downing Street
The PM grinned sheepishly as he tried to pronounce the drug’s name correctly

Mr Johnson briefly spoke French during a briefing last May in answer to a question about whether his lockdown communications were too vague.

At the time, he was under fire over the Government’s ‘stay alert’ messaging.

After noting France had used a similar slogan, he rattled it off in French, adding “I’m sure everybody knows” what it means.

In September, he got into a muddle over his own lockdown rules.

The PM was told tier restrictions were proving confusing for people first affected by the system that was rolled out first in England’s North.

After a junior minister admitted she did not know whether household mixing bans also applied to outdoor environments in the North East, Mr Johnson struggled to make things clearer.

After he was asked to clarify what the rules were, the PM mixed up the household ban with the rule of six.

After he was labelled “grossly incompetent” by Labour’s Angela Rayner, he apologised and issued a clarification.

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