Rabu, 26 Mei 2021

British PM Boris Johnson believed COVID-19 was 'scare story', former chief adviser Dominic Cummings tells inquiry - ABC News

Dominic Cummings, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former chief adviser, says the government's response to COVID-19 has been a failure and fallen "disastrously short" of the standards the public has a right to expect.

Mr Cummings, the strategist behind the 2016 Brexit campaign and Mr Johnson's landslide election win in 2019, began giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry on the lessons that could be learned from the pandemic.

With almost 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth-highest official COVID-19 toll.

Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson was slow to appreciate the threat the virus posed in early 2020 as it spread from China towards Britain's shores.

Mr Cummings, who left the government late last year, said the British health ministry was a "smoking ruin", that Western governments failed during the crisis, and that the secretive British state was woefully unprepared for the pandemic.

"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," Mr Cummings said.

"I think it's obvious that the Western world, including Britain, just completely failed to see the smoke until the alarm bells in January. There's no doubt about it."

Close up of Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street in London, he is wearing a coat
Dominic Cummings left Downing Street late last year.(

Reuters: John Sibley


Mr Cummings accused Mr Johnson of playing down the threat of the pandemic, saying the Prime Minister regarded it as just another scare story.

He said Mr Johnson even suggested injecting himself with the virus on television to prove it was nothing to fear.

"The view of various officials inside Number 10 was if we have the Prime Minister chairing meetings and he just tells everyone 'this is swine flu, don't worry about it' and 'I'm going to get [Chief Medical Officer] Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus' ... that would not help," he said.

"The basic thought was that in February, the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story."

Mr Cummings said British officials failed to learn the early lessons on COVID-19 from Asia, were resistant to new ideas from young scientists, overly secretive, overly bureaucratic and lacked any real scrutiny from a compliant domestic media.

"Number 10 was not operating on a war footing in February on [COVID-19] in any way, shape or form," he said.

"Lots of key people were literally skiing in the middle of February.

"It wasn't until the last week of February that there was really any sort of sense of urgency, I would say."

Asked about Mr Cummings's criticism, Mr Johnson's spokesman said: "At all times we have been guided by the data and the latest evidence we had."

Mr Johnson has previously admitted that mistakes had been made and lessons needed to be learned. But his ministers said they were working at pace in the biggest public health crisis in a century.

Mr Johnson has pointed to Britain's vaccination program as a success that will allow the economy to rebound before its peers.

Britain has the world's fifth-fastest vaccination program, based on shots per 100 people, behind the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Bahrain and Chile.


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2021-05-26 09:39:09Z

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