Helena Morrissey’s claim that the international crisis was “exaggerated” and had been started by “fake videos” from the Chinese Communist Party sparked calls for her to be disciplined.
Asked whether she would face the sack, the spokesman made no comment, pointing instead to the prime minister’s own record of taking the pandemic seriously.
Asset manager Lady Morrissey is the senior non-executive director at the Foreign Office – a government role created to provide “strategic leadership” and “advice on performance and delivery”.
In a tweet last month, she said: “The data shows we are NOT in a pandemic.
“If we were, would we need constant propaganda and the biggest government ad spend ever!
“If people were dropping dead in the street we would notice & not go to M&S and have all those football matches. CCP fake videos started this. It is ridiculous.”
Lady Morrissey, who was appointed to the House of Lords by Mr Johnson last year, also retweeted comments from the British rapper Zuby criticising the lockdown as “bulls***”.
Her comments were denounced as “shocking” and “deeply upsetting” by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, while Professor Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group of scientists, accused her of “gaslighting the families of the 150,000 people who have died”.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called for her removal, telling The Independent: “The prime minister must finally wake up to the threat of disinformation and conspiracy theories in his party’s ranks,” Ms Rayner said.
“He must take action against Conservative parliamentarians who undermine our national effort to defeat this virus and put more lives at risk by legitimising, promoting and endorsing deadly disinformation.”
Mr Johnson’s spokesman was asked whether the PM or foreign secretary Dominic Raab had spoken to Lady Morrissey since her comments hit the headlines, and whether she would keep her job.
He replied: “Not that I’m aware of, but you’ve got what the prime minister and everybody said around the important role that everyone has to play in terms of continuing to tackle the pandemic.”
Asked whether Mr Johnson agreed with her claim that China had created fear about the virus with “fake videos”, the PM’s spokesman said: “The prime minister has been clear about the measures we have had to put in place to tackle the pandemic and the importance of the measures which remain in place in ensuring that we can continue to try to keep case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths down as low as they can be.
“You’ve seen throughout the pandemic the government taking the action that is required.”