British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was disastrously slow to impose a lockdown in 2020 because he thought COVID-19 was a scare story and even considered getting injected with coronavirus on live television to show it was benign, his former chief adviser said.
In a blistering attack on the British government, and hours of testimony before parliament – the man who was once top advisor to the prime minister has trashed the response of his former boss and his fellow lawmakers to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Dominic Cummings says Boris Johnson's initial scepticism about COVID in 2020 was so great, he claims, that the leader even told officials he was considering getting the government's chief medical advisor to inject him with the virus on live television to show the public it wasn’t a big threat.
Johnson subsequently caught COVID-19 early in the pandemic and was so ill, plans had been prepared to announce his death.
Cummings says the government was totally unprepared.
"The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me, fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this.
When the public needed us most, the government failed.
And I'd like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily, how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that." Cummings has cast the state as woefully disorganised, dominated by "groupthink" and run by ministers such as Health Secretary Matt Hancock who, he says, should be fired for lying to the public and the government in status reports.
He also described Johnson as the mayor from the movie "Jaws, who kept beaches open despite shark attacks." The health ministry has declined to comment.
With almost 128,000 deaths, the UK has the world's fifth worst official COVID-19 toll.
Though Cummings's attacks have so far failed to dent the prime minister's popularity, his testimony is likely to form the broad lines of scrutiny of a public inquiry next year into the COVID-19 response.
"We have worked flat out to minimise loss of life." Johnson rejects the criticism from his former adviser, saying he didn’t accept Cummings' accusation that government inaction led to unnecessary deaths.