The man who was once the main adviser to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, took on the role of one of his main executioners on Wednesday (26). “Tens of thousands of people have died needlessly,” said Dominic Cummings, testifying for seven hours of the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the British Parliament.
According to the former aide, the prime minister was “unfit for the role” to ignore scientific advice and resist the need for containment, and the lack of leadership led to “catastrophic failures” in the first months of 2020.
One of the most controversial points in Cummings’ testimony concerned the government’s initial intention to expect the population to achieve so-called “herd immunity” – when the proportion of people who have already developed antibodies against disease naturally lowers the rate of contagion.
According to the former adviser, the prime minister was asked to tell the public, on national television, that Covid was “like chickenpox” and that people should hold “chickenpox parties” to spread the virus faster.
The herd immunity hypothesis was made public in March 2020 by Boris’ scientific adviser Patrick Vallence, but the details reported by Cummings reach the image of his former ally just as Boris appeared to be regaining the approval of the public, with one of the most successful vaccination policies in the world.
The UK has the fifth highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in the world: 128,000 since the start of the pandemic. In relation to the population, it is the 17th, with 187 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. 72% of adults in the UK have received at least one dose of vaccination and 44% are fully vaccinated.
Cummings served in government until November 2020, when internal strife forced him to leave. To MPs, he said he was trying to create “a cordon of security around the Prime Minister, to prevent extremely false decisions”, but reached a dead end when Boris refused to put in place a new lockdown in September. . According to the former adviser, the prime minister said the economic impact of this measure would be worse than that of the pandemic.
“The fact that your girlfriend [Carrie Symonds] wanting to get rid of me too was relevant, but that was not the heart of the matter, ”he said.
At the start of the hearing in Parliament, he apologized to the families of the dead “for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes”. In April last year, Cummings broke detention rules by driving 400 miles to take his family to his in-laws and, two weeks later, on his return to London.
“The truth is ministers, senior officials and advisers like me have failed disastrously to meet the standards the public has come to expect of their government in a crisis like this,” Cummings said. . Although his ties to Boris have been close since the Brexit campaign in 2016, he said British voters had bad options in the December 2019 election: “There were many better ones to lead the country”.
The former aide said Boris did not take Covid seriously at the start of the pandemic – “he thought it was another swine flu” – and even went so far as to ask the UK medical director , Chris Whitty, to inoculate him with the coronavirus. live, on TV, “so that everyone realizes that there is nothing to fear”.
The prime minister also resisted the border closures, according to the former ally. “He said he wanted to be the mayor of ‘Tubarão’,” he said, referring to the character in the film directed by Steven Spielberg, who insists on keeping his city’s beaches open despite attacks from a giant shark.
Another target of the former adviser was Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who “lied repeatedly, at government meetings and in public.” Among the lies, he cites statements in which the secretary said all patients had received the necessary treatment, by the middle of last year. “He knew it was a lie. He had been warned by the scientific adviser and the chief medical officer,” he said.
According to Cummings, there have been 15 or 20 times Hancock should have been fired for “criminal and disgraceful behavior, which caused serious damage.” Among the cases are the failure to keep promises to roll out mass testing last year and the return of untested patients to nursing homes, exacerbating the contamination. The former adviser also praised Britain’s health teams, which he called ‘lions led by donkeys’.
Asked by union leader Keir Starmer about the accusations of his former ally, the Prime Minister said: “Dealing with the pandemic has been the most difficult thing this government has had to do in a long time. None of the decisions were easy, and going into detention is traumatic, but at all stages we try to minimize the loss of life ”.
The Conservative government’s handling of the pandemic will be investigated by the House of Commons health and science committees (equivalent to the Chamber of Deputies), although Boris has already promised an independent investigation in the coming months. According to the Prime Minister, starting the audit now would divert “precious time and effort now, while we are still in a pandemic”.
TIGHTENING AND RELEASING BORIS JOHNSON IN THE PANDEMIC
§ – openings
# – closures
Jan 31, 2020 – first recorded case
March 3, 2020 – first death from Covid-19
March 10, 2020 – After their lockdown in Italy, the British run to supermarkets. UK government rules out lockdown and creates commission to tackle fake news.
§ 13.Mar.2020 – While 31 European countries had already closed schools, Boris defends the maintenance of classes and the scientific adviser defends the objective of “building a kind of collective immunity”
# 16.Mar 2020 – Government decrees four months ‘vertical isolation’ for people over 70, bans public events and calls for work from home
# 17.March 2020 – After study predicting 250,000 deaths if UK does not tighten controls, Boris tightens restrictions
# 20.Mar 2020 – Government closes pubs, restaurants, clubs and discos and announces closure of choices on 23rd
# 23.Mar 2020 – After a weekend of crowded parks, Boris decrees the first confinement
§ 26. Mar 2020 – UK government says testing strategy is only suitable for less developed countries
# 10.Apr.2020 – The Secretary of Health announces the target of 100,000 tests by the end of April; the goal was not reached
§ 28.20.2020 – Advisory Group (Sage) says there is “little scientific justification” for strengthening border controls
§ May 6, 2020 – Boris announces a gradual relaxation of detention
§ 10.May 2020 – Boris asks workers to return to factories
§ 1º.jun.2020 – schools start to reopen
§ 8.Jul.2020 – with a low rate of new cases, the government launches the “Eat out to help” campaign, encouraging restaurant visits to help fight the crisis; the pubs are reopened
§ 14.ago.2020 – Government encourages return to cafes, bars and offices
21.set.2020 – Sage suggests ‘breaker lockout’ – short term lockouts triggered when numbers exceed a certain threshold, rejected by Boris
# 12.out.2020 – Boris launches three-step restriction system
# 31.out.2020 – Boris announces a “partial blockade”, for a period of one month; schools remain open
§ 2.Dec.2020 – The blockage ends and England adopts a four-stage system of restrictions; UK approves use of Pfizer vaccine
December 8, 2020 – Boris launches mass vaccination in UK
§ 16.Dec.2020 – Boris announces the relaxation of restrictions on the five days of Christmas and New Year; at the same time, the government identifies a new, more contagious variant
# 19.Dec2020 – Boris cancels relaxation
# 4.Jan.2021 – Boris decrees the third confinement and cancels the reopening of the school
# 15.Jan.2021 – England bans entry for travelers from Brazil and other countries where contagious variants have been found
# 27.Jan.2021 – Boris imposes a ten-day quarantine in specific facilities for those arriving from Brazil and 22 other origins; Government announces schools will not reopen until March 8
§ 8.Mar.2021 – Reopening of schools
§ 12.Apr.2021 Pubs and restaurants serve outdoors again; Hairdressers, masseuses and similar professions requiring a return to outreach work
§ 10.May.2021 Hugs are released, says Boris announcing a new stage of deflation
# 14.May.2021 Boris says UK variant is worried and could postpone fourth relaxation stage, scheduled for June 21
§ 17.May.2021 Stores reopen and travel and meetings are released