To date, more than 127,000 UK citizens have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
Cummings’ attack is all the more devastating as he was one of Johnson’s closest collaborators since he became prime minister in 2019 and wielded unprecedented power and influence in Downing Street.
Cummings explained that to show the Prime Minister how serious the situation was, they held a meeting on September 21 where they pretended it was the end of October. They presented what the data would look like based on the current modeling. According to Cummings, the evidence that the National Health Service “was going to get run over” again failed to convince Johnson. Cummings said “any other competent politician” would have “behaved differently”.
He said he would like to see an investigation as soon as possible because “tens of thousands of people have died without needing to die.”
Throughout his testimony, Cummings was eager to come forward as aware of the severity of the pandemic in January 2020, long before others took it seriously.
He said senior government officials were busy with other activities, whether professional or, in Cummings’ words, “literally skiing,” which meant the government was not on the “right foot”. war ”soon enough.
Cummings claimed the Prime Minister thought the virus was nothing more than a scary story and would say things like he wanted England’s chief medical officer to ‘inject him with Covid’ live to prove that there was nothing to worry about.
At the center of Cummings’ criticism of Johnson and his government is a lack of preparedness, resulting in lockdown delays and the pursuit of policies such as collective immunity.
Cummings claimed he first told Johnson that the UK was to be subject to strict lockdowns on March 11, 2020. The first nationwide lockdown was not imposed until March 23.
Cummings listed many reasons for the delay, ranging from belief that the British public would not accept the “Wuhan-style” measures, to outside distractions. These ranged from then-US President Donald Trump wanting the UK to join a Middle East bombing mission, to stories about Johnson’s fiancé Carrie Symonds, upset by articles in the media. logs on the couple’s dog. But in the end, his main accusation was that the government was just not prepared and that the plan in place at the time was based on lies.
On herd immunity, Cummings said the government assumed that nothing could stop the virus from spreading and that vaccines would not be “relevant in 2020”. He said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was “completely wrong” when he said on March 15, 2020 that herd immunity was not part of the government’s plan because “herd immunity was being considered as an inevitable fact ”.
One of the biggest early failures of the UK’s response to Covid-19 has been the construction of a tailored testing and tracing system. Cummings said it was the fault of the government’s core collapse when Johnson went to hospital after falling ill with Covid.
He said that during that time, Hancock “foolishly” promised himself to deliver 100,000 tests a day purely “so he could get on TV” and claim success. He claimed that Hancock directly interfered with the testing program to help him reach his target, preventing the team from building the system properly.
Cummings also criticized the slowness with which the UK has closed its borders. He said arguments had been made that closing the borders seemed racist and would cripple the tourism industry. Cummings believes this has undermined the pandemic effort as a whole.
In an emotional moment, Cummings spoke of the failures around nursing homes and social care, which have been hit hard amid the pandemic. He said Hancock had claimed people returning to care homes would be tested, when in reality many were not. He also claimed that people working in nursing homes and social services did not have sufficient protective equipment and frequent enough testing, which allowed the virus to spread to the most vulnerable in society.
Beyond the pandemic, Cummings criticized the entire system of British politics, saying that a system that offers a choice between Johnson or former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn “has gone extremely, extremely, badly. “.
He claimed his resignation was “definitely linked” to Johnson’s fiance “trying to put people in particular jobs”, building his own power base in Downing Street.
Speaking in the House of Commons later Wednesday, Johnson defended his government’s actions throughout the pandemic, accusing his opponents of looking “in the rearview mirror” as his government continued with its vaccination program.
A Downing Street official said they “weren’t going to answer all the allegations” but would continue to focus on the priorities of the nation, which is ending the pandemic. The official added that the PM believed Hancock had always told him the truth.
An almost mythical figure
Critics of Cummings have questioned his legitimacy as a witness. During the period his evidence bears, he was arguably the oldest working person in Downing Street besides Johnson.
He has repeatedly won battles with other government officials, further strengthening his authority as the most important person in Johnson’s inner circle. The Prime Minister had repeatedly called his former chief adviser a “genius” whom he “loved” at private events at which CNN was present. During Cummings’ time in government, he often attended press briefings and hid in the back, watching his subordinates at work, much to their discomfort. Meanwhile, journalists flocked around a man who had become an almost mythical figure.
It is therefore extremely unlikely that Cummings’ views were ignored or dismissed during the height of the pandemic.
It’s also worth noting that Cummings is being discredited for other reasons, including the time he drove his wife and child hundreds of miles across the country during a nationwide lockdown after contracting Covid-like symptoms. .
Cummings said during the session that he had moved his family from London because he had received death threats.
No matter how astounding Cummings’ words might be for those watching, the reality is that most of the country won’t be as obsessed with the Westminster Bubble. And even those who watched might note that Cummings provided no real evidence for his most serious claims. Without this evidence, the combination of its bad reputation and the successful rollout of vaccines in the UK means this story is likely to fade within days.
Official Opposition Leader Keir Starmer said Cummings’ testimony was “the final chapter in a story of confusion, chaos and deadly misunderstanding.” And while Johnson could be on course for a happy lockdown-ending summer, there is a risk that at some point it will translate into a larger and damning retrospective of how his government let down. the country at the time of need.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the UK’s first lockdown. It was imposed on March 23, 2020.