image copyrightEPA

Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings has made a series of explosive claims about mistakes made by the government in handling coronavirus.

Here are the key points so far from his evidence to a joint session of the Commons Heath, and Science and Technology committees.

Apology

“Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die,” Mr Cummings said in the session.

Earlier, Mr Cummings said sorry for ministers, officials and advisers “like me” for falling “disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect”.

“When the public needed us most the government failed,” he added, apologising to “the families of those who died unnecessarily”.

Government’s initial reaction

Mr Cummings said the government was not on a “war footing” when the virus first emerged in January and February last year and “lots of key people were literally skiing”.

Hancock ‘should have been fired’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock “should have been fired for at least 15 to 20 things” he did, Mr Cummings said.

He and “many senior people” had fallen “disastrously below the standards which the country has the right to expect”, he argued.

Mr Cummings said he and the top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill had recommended to the prime minister that Mr Hancock be sacked.

Politicians attacked

Mr Cummings said there were “thousands” of people better suited to running the UK than Boris Johnson or the Labour leader when the crisis broke, Jeremy Corbyn.

He called frontline workers and civil servants “lions led by donkeys”.

‘Scare story’

The prime minister initially regarded reports of the potential impact of coronavirus “as just a scare story”, describing it as “the new swine flu”, Mr Cummings said.

He said Mr Johnson had told him he was going to get Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to inject him “live on TV with the virus so everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of'”.

Herd immunity

Mr Cummings said he was “completely baffled” as to why Downing Street has denied that achieving “herd immunity” – giving people immunity by enough of the population having a disease – was the official plan early last year.

People in government had not “actively” wanted it, but it was seen as a “complete inevitability” early on, he added, saying the “only real question” was whether it could happen by September 2020 or the following January, after a second peak.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock had been “completely wrong” on 15 March last year to say herd immunity was not part of the plan, he said.

Lockdown delay

Mr Cummings said it was “obvious” in retrospect that the UK should have locked down in the first week of March at the latest – and it was a “huge failure” on his part not to alert the prime minister.

“I bitterly regret that I didn’t hit the emergency panic button earlier then I did,” he added.

Mr Cummings said that, on 14 March, Boris Johnson had been told that models showing the peak of infections was “weeks and weeks and weeks away” in June were “completely wrong”.

He said the PM was warned: “The NHS is going to be smashed in weeks. Really we’ve got days to act.”

‘Going completely crackers’

Mr Cummings painted a vivid picture of the atmosphere in Downing Street on one “crazy” day when the government was considering a national lockdown.

On the morning of 12 March 2020, he said, the “national security people came in” and said “[US President Donald] Trump wants us to join a bombing campaign in the Middle East tonight” and this “totally derailed” meetings about coronavirus.

At the same time, “the prime minister’s girlfriend was going completely crackers” over stories in the press about her dog.

‘Chicken pox parties’

Mr Cummings said that, on 12 March last year, Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill had suggested to Mr Johnson: “Prime minister, you should go on TV tomorrow and explain the herd immunity plan and that it is like the old chicken pox parties. We need people to get this disease because that’s how we get herd immunity by September.”

But Mr Cummings had told him not to use the analogy, which was “not right”, as chicken pox was not “spreading exponentially and killing hundreds of thousands of people”.

Barnard Castle trip defended

Mr Cummings defended his decisions to drive from London to County Durham during the first lockdown and to “test” his eyesight while there by driving from his parents’ home to Barnard Castle and back.

He told MPs the trip to Barnard Castle, with his wife and son in the car, had not seemed “crazy” at the time.

Mr Cummings apologised for not saying sorry when he held a special press conference in the Downing Street garden last May, admitting his actions had harmed the government.

Care home regrets

Mr Cummings said the government had failed to shield care homes from infections.

And he added that it was “shocking” that untested people had been sent to homes.

PM ‘opposed proper borders policy’

Boris Johnson was against imposing extra border controls to control the spread of coronavirus in April last year, Mr Cummings said, adding that the UK still “did not have a proper border policy” today.

He blamed “groupthink”, explaining that there was a feeling within government that to change the rules might seem “racist”.

Government ‘collapsed’ when Johnson fell ill

When Mr Johnson caught coronavirus and was hospitalised in April last year, the running of government “kind of collapsed”, Mr Cummings said.

He attacked Matt Hancock again, saying that he set a “stupid” target of 100,000 Covid tests per day being carried out by the end of that month, while the PM was possibly “on his death bed”.

PM ‘ignored’ second lockdown advice

Mr Johnson rejected the recommendation last September that there should be a second lockdown in England, Mr Cummings said.

“He was ignoring the advice,” he added, saying the PM believed he had been pushed into imposing the first one and that the economic harm done by lockdown would be worse than Covid itself.

Sunak praised for furlough work

Chancellor Rishi Sunak did a “fantastic” job, along with his officials, of setting up from scratch the furlough system for workers, Mr Cummings said.

Whiteboards

Before giving evidence to the MPs, Mr Cummings tweeted pictures which he said showed the thinking at government meetings on Covid during the early part of the crisis.

image copyrightDominic Cummings

“There was no functioning data system,” he said. “And that was connected with, there was no proper testing data.

“Because we didn’t have testing, all we could really do was look at people arriving in hospital.”

image copyrightDominic Cummings

The whiteboards related to the government’s “plan B” for dealing with the pandemic, he said.



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