Boris Johnson has apologised for saying “f*** you Daily Mail” in a conversation about the rule of six during the pandemic.

According to an account from the diary of Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, Mr Johnson said in September 2020: “Everyone says rule of 6 so unfair, punishing the young but F**K YOU Daily Mail – look this is all about stopping deaths. We need to tell them.”

Facing questioning about the remarks from Pete Weatherby KC, who represents Covid Bereaved Families for Justice at the inquiry, Mr Johnson apologised for his language.

Mr Johnson said he appeared to be responding to unfavourable coverage by the paper of the so-called rule-of-six guidance designed to prevent excessive socialising.

He said: “What I can tell you, if indeed it is accurate, is that what I would have been saying is that … this is September … you can see the risk that the virus is going to start taking off again.

“I’m extremely worried … it looks to me as though what I’m saying here is that the priority is to – and I am sorry to have said this about the Daily Mail – but the priority is to stop death.”

My Johnson said he did not think his thoughts represented in Sir Patrick’s diary were meant to be a general criticism of the press or the Daily Mail.

He said he presumed the paper had said something – possibly about the rule of six – that “had wound me up”.

Mr Johnson added: “What I was saying was we need restrictions.”