Herd immunity through infections, preferably at corona parties: that is said to have been the plan of the British government at the beginning of the corona pandemic. This is what the former top adviser to Boris Johnson claims.
The once most important advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, has accused the government of catastrophic failure at the start of the corona pandemic. Johnson himself completely underestimated the virus, Cummings told MPs in London on Wednesday. The head of government even deliberately wanted to be infected with corona to show that the virus was not dangerous, claimed Cummings. Johnson later actually contracted the virus and had to be treated in an intensive care unit for days.
Ministers, officials and advisors were “catastrophically falling short of the standards the public can expect in a crisis,” said Cummings. “When the public needed us most, we failed.” The government failed to see the signs of the spreading pandemic, said Cummings, who was Johnson’s most influential advisor at the time. It was only at the end of February 2020 that it was seen that the prepared contingency plans were “hollow”. The government called for home office work too late and left pubs and sports facilities open too long.
According to Cummings, there are “thousands upon thousands” of people who are more competent than the current government. To blame is the system that produces leaders like Johnson or the former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. He explicitly referred the criticism to himself as well. “It’s just incredible that someone like me should have been there, just as it’s incredible that Boris Johnson was there and that Jeremy Corbyn was on the ballot in the last election.” There are many brilliant minds among the professional civil servants, but too many responsible persons like Johnson or Health Minister Matt Hancock are incompetent. “The problem with this crisis was that lions were always led by donkeys.”
Cummings apologized to the relatives of the corona dead. The ex-adviser spoke to members of two lower house committees of the British Parliament. He left the government in a dispute in November 2020. Government members accuse him of a campaign of revenge.
“New Swine Flu”
Cummings testified, “In February 2020, Boris Johnson thought it was just a scary story. He thought it was the new swine flu.” He went on to claim that Johnson said, “I’m going to get (the chief medical advisor) Chris Whitty to inject me with the coronavirus live on TV so everyone can see it’s not something to be afraid of.”
The government’s real plan was to achieve herd immunity. In mid-March, then-top-level official Mark Sedwill said that Johnson should call on the population to coronavirus parties, similar to how parents organize chickenpox parties for their children. That was official advice from the Department of Health, Cummings claimed. Department head Matt Hancock should have been fired repeatedly, he “lied” in many cases, for example about the procurement of protective equipment. Cummings and other high-ranking people would have said that to Johnson repeatedly. Hancock is still in office.
Johnson, on the other hand, defended his corona policy. “We have tried at every stage to minimize the loss of life,” said Johnson in Parliament. Dealing with the pandemic is “terribly difficult”. Johnson emphasized, “None of the decisions were easy. It is traumatic for any region to go into lockdown.”