Boris Johnson’s half-brother has joined the board of a private ‘wellness’ firm which senior staff say are ‘holding talks’ with the government over Covid-19 testing.
Dr Michael Barnish, Medical Director for REVIV Global, told the Mirror he hoped investment banker Max Johnson – whose dad is Stanley Johnson – would help them ‘open doors’.
Until this year the firm provided vitamin injections and “boosts” delivered through IV drips.
But REVIV is now branching out into Covid-19 testing – offering private antigen tests for £89 each.
And Dr Barnish says lab work for the tests is being carried out in labs also used by NHS Test and Trace, in ‘unusued’ capacity.
REVIV says tests are being offered at cost price, they make no profit on the scheme and they donate to the NHS for every test they sell.
The firm’s CEO, Sarah Lomas, has said Mr Johnson’s appointment would be a “critical point” in the firm’s “aggressive growth”.
She added: “The current pandemic has created unprecedented opportunities for REVIV.”
Mr Johnson has said he was “totally honoured” to join the firm, and that he had been attracted to it while working in Hong Kong because of his “work hard, play hard” lifestyle.
He told the Mirror: “Whilst my primary role within REVIV is focussed on securing capital investment and expansion into Asia-Pac, I am proud to be associated with a company who are pro-actively utilising the resources available to them to help alleviate the challenges that people across the UK are facing.”
Asked if REVIV’s tests were linked to NHS Test and Trace, Dr Barnish said: “They’re outside of the national system, but we’re absolutely happy to work with the national system.
“I personally haven’t been in any talks with them, but I know full well that our CEO has – and obviously Max Johnson, et cetera…there are talks going on.
“We’re happy to support in any way we can the government testing strategy.”
And asked whether having Mr Johnson on the board would open doors for the firm, Dr Barnish said: “I personally don’t know, but I’m hoping so.
“We absolutely want to help, but I don’t know what the relationship is like.”
Helen Hayes, Labour Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said: “Across the country many people are finding it impossible to access a Covid test, including key workers in care homes. Any spare tests must be put to use for the wider public benefit to tackle these shortages.
“It is unacceptable for businesses to take advantage of the government’s incompetence and charge £89 for the privilege of using the same labs as the national Test and Trace system.
“The fact that a relative of the Prime Minister is now being employed by the same business is concerning. Such a connection must not in any way influence Government decisions which must always be taken objectively, fairly and in the national interest.”
In a statement issued after Dr Barnish spoke to the Mirror, CEO Sarah Lomas said: “Max Johnson has joined the REVIV non-executive board because of his investment experience in Asia, where he is a resident.
“His familial connection to the UK Prime Minister does not give REVIV an advantage in anyway, in fact it is more likely to mean our company is penalised.
“We would welcome the opportunity to speak with the UK government to share details of HELIIX, our brand new COVID management technology for employers, and how this can actively support the governments efforts to get people safely back to work and begin to rebuild the UK economy, but Max Johnson is not speaking to them for us.”
In April, REVIV deleted a blog post after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled it had suggested the firm’s “Megaboost” Vitamin drip could be used to prevent Covid-19.
The post described the “therapy” as “containing a high dose of vitamin C” – and went on to claim “we are also witnessing clinical trials in hospitals treating the coronavirus using high intravenous doses of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, with some initial positive results.”
Dr Barnish told the Mirror the post had been uploaded by mistake, and had since been removed.
But he added that there were “very, very interesting” studies in New York and China, where they had “used high doses of Vitamin C as treatments for Covid, and it will be really interesting to see where that comes.”
Dr Barnish said the lab who processes tests for the firm also works for the NHS.
But he said their company was not taking any capacity away from the national effort – effectively using spare capacity not used by the NHS.
He said each lab had a “set proportion” of their output which was reserved for government tests, “and they’ve got machines that are empty the rest of the time.”
He said: “That’s why we can build those relationships and that’s why other private companies are able to build those relationships, because they still have more capacity than what they’re doing now.
“Obviously if the Government say we’re going to test everyone all the time, and it’s all going to be NHS, they’re going to do unlimited tests, then that would change the picture.
“But at the moment, the laboratories have a lot more capacity. These machines are fantastic.”
“If the government said ‘we’re going to test everyone, all the time…and it’s all going to be NHS and they’re going to do unlimited tests, that would change the picture, but at the moment the laboratories have a lot more capacity.”