UK’s Johnson failed ‘disastrously’ in Covid-19 crisis, ex-chief adviser says

Associated Press Dominic Cummings has claimed the government originally planned to try and build'herd immunity

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former chief adviser said the government failed in the Covid-19 crisis and fell "disastrously short" of the standards the public had a right to expect during the most devastating global pandemic in decades.

"On this insane day of the 12 [March], we're sitting in the prime minister's office and we're talking about the herd immunity plan".

He quoted Helen MacNamara, deputy cabinet secretary, as saying "I've come through here to the prime minister's office to tell you, quote, I think we are absolutely fucked". Mr Cummings said he knew this was a lie, because Hancock had been told the opposite by experts. There is no plan. I think this country is heading for disaster.

Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said Dominic Cummings' remarks about care homes were disappointing. Faith in Matt Hancock among top figures in the government was so low the Prime Minister was told "repeatedly" that Hancock should be fired from the pandemic response-leading position, Cummings claimed.

This included a potential bombing campaign in the Middle East at the request of Dominic Trump, and a story in The Times newspaper about Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds' dog.

On the same day, Cummings also said then-cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill had suggested Johnson go on television and tell people to catch COVID-19 as if it was chicken pox.

"So we had this sort of completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying: 'Are we going to bomb Iraq?' Part of the building was arguing about whether or not we're going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, [and] the prime minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial".

Mr Cummings told MPs that "the logic was, if you go in for the optimal single peak strategy - herd immunity by September - in the same way you don't take vaccines as a kind of urgent priority, you don't take testing as an urgent priority, and that's why the Department of Health said (in mid-March) "we don't need to test everyone any more", because the view was simply, well, 60% or 70% of the country or something are going to get (Covid), that's going to happen for sure".

In a ferocious attack on the competence and honesty of Johnson's administration, Dominic Cummings claimed the arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 plunged the government into chaos.

Cummings repeated an allegation, which Johnson has denied, that the prime minister late past year said he would rather "let the bodies pile high" than impose a second lockdown.

Taking on some of the blame himself as one of the senior officials at Downing Street at the time, Cummings defended his stance as he did not feel equipped with all the facts and expertise to pull a so-called emergency panic button to push harder for a complete lockdown earlier.

"I think the secretary of state for health should've been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly".

Cummings was asked to substantiate his claims that Health Secretary Hancock had lied.

"When I came back, nearly the first meeting I had in the Cabinet room was about the disaster over PPE and how actually hospitals all over the country were running out".

Chairman of the health select committee Jeremy Hunt said Mr Cummings had raised "very serious allegations said under parliamentary privilege" about Mr Hancock's behaviour and the health secretary would have a chance to respond to them when he appeared before the committee in a fortnight.

Almost half of the 2, 835 people surveyed said they were not inclined to believe either party involved, with 17 per cent of respondents saying they don't know.

She added: "Over 30,000 care home residents have died of coronavirus during this pandemic - 25,000 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without any tests whatsoever, and frontline care workers were left without PPE".



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