Boris Johnson treated COVID-19 like a “scare story” and many ministers were “skiing” as the pandemic was developing early last year, Dominic Cummings has told MPs.
Appearing before MPs, the prime minister’s former chief adviser made a number of allegations about the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Here are the main ones:
PM did not consider COVID to be serious
Mr Cummings claimed Boris Johnson did not chair early meetings of the COBRA emergency committee because he thought it was like “swine flu” and did not think it justified major concern.
He told MPs the PM even considered asking England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, to inject him with COVID-19 to prove it was not particularly serious.
Key people were ‘skiing’ when pandemic was gathering pace
The government was not operating on a “war footing” in February 2020 and “lots of key people were literally skiing in the middle of February”, Mr Cummings said.
Initial hope was to achieve herd immunity
The early plan was for limited intervention, Mr Cummings said.
He added that there was a hope of achieving herd immunity to the virus – until it became clear that the number of deaths would be unacceptable.
Delay in announcing lockdown in March was because there was ‘no plan’
Mr Cummings said the government didn’t support a lockdown because it thought it would just mean a worse peak in the winter.
But he said he realised on 12 March: “The system is delaying announcing all of these things because there wasn’t a plan in place. These things are being delayed because the planning and preparation hasn’t been made.”
Whitehall did not think there was going to be a pandemic
Mr Cummings told MPs: “It was not at all seen in Whitehall that there was going to be a pandemic.”
Asked if COVID was “the most important matter”, he said: “At the time, in no way shape or form did it act like it was the most important thing, in February, let alone January.”
Plan B came into effect when government realised ‘we’re absolutely f****d’
Mr Cummings said that on 13 March 2020, a Cabinet Office official came to see him to say the initial government plan would not work, and they would need a “Plan B”.
He describes him saying: “We’re going to have to ditch the whole plan and we’re heading for the biggest disaster this country has seen since 1940. I’ve been told for years that there’s a whole plan for this, there is no plan, we’re in huge trouble.
“I think we’re absolutely f**** and we’re going to kill thousands of people.”
Boris Johnson’s girlfriend went ‘completely crackers’ over story about her dog
Dominic Cummings said 12 March was “a completely surreal day”. He says he sent a message to the PM in the morning saying there were “big problems coming” as the cabinet office is “terrifyingly s***” and the UK was facing 100,000 to 500,000 COVID deaths.
But he added that plans to deal with COVID were “completely derailed” that day because Donald Trump wanted the UK to “join a bombing campaign in the Middle East”.
He also said the PM’s partner, Carrie Symonds, was “going completely crackers” over a newspaper story about her dog.
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