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 initial 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.”