LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was disastrously slow to impose a lockdown in 2020 because he thought COVID-19 was a scary story and even considered getting injected with coronavirus on live TV to show he was benign, his former chief adviser said. .
Johnson then contracted COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic and was so ill he was transferred to intensive care at a London hospital where he was given gallons of oxygen. He later said plans had been made to announce his death.
In a meteoric attack on the British state, Dominic Cummings told lawmakers the government was completely unprepared for the worst public health crisis in decades and that ministers, including the Prime Minister, were on vacation in February 2020, some skiing.
Such was Johnson’s skepticism about COVID-19, he even told officials he was considering having the government’s chief medical adviser inject him with the novel coronavirus to show the public it wasn’t. a great threat, Cummings said.
“The Prime Minister saw this as a scary story,” Cummings said, adding that officials were of the opinion that Johnson’s attitude was “don’t worry about it and I’ll ask Chris Whitty about me.” inject the coronavirus live on television ”.
“When the public needed us most, government failed,” Cummings told lawmakers, adding that it was “crackers” that someone like Johnson became prime minister.
Cummings called the state woefully disorganized, dominated by “group thinking” and run by ministers such as Health Secretary Matt Hancock who he said should be fired for lying to the public and to the government.
The Department of Health declined to comment. With nearly 128,000 deaths, the UK has the fifth worst official COVID-19 toll in the world.
While the Cummings attacks have so far not dented the Prime Minister’s popularity, his testimony is likely to form the outlines of scrutiny for a public inquiry next year into the response to COVID-19.
Asked about Cummings’ criticism during a weekly question-and-answer session in parliament, Johnson said no one could credibly accuse him or his government of appeasement.
“We have worked hard to minimize the loss of life,” Johnson said. He did not respond directly to many of Cummings’ allegations.
When asked if the senior British official revealed that he had lost faith in Hancock’s honesty, Johnson said: “The answer to that is no… and I’m afraid I didn’t have the benefit from seeing the evidence he (Cummings) bringing home.
Cummings, the strategist behind the 2016 Brexit campaign and Johnson’s landslide election victory in 2019, left Downing Street carrying his belongings in a box at the end of 2020 after falling out with Johnson.
His testimony to lawmakers gave an alarming glimpse into the heart of the UK government as it grappled with the onset of what was to become the most devastating public health crisis in a century.
The West, Cummings said, failed during the crisis and British officials refused to agree to follow the lead of the Asian powers in locking down the country.
“The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me, have fallen disastrously below the standards the public has come to expect of their government in a crisis like this,” Cummings said. .
He recounted meetings in early 2020 when some officials began to realize Johnson’s resistance to a lockdown was a fatal mistake. Cummings said there is no COVID plan and certainly no lockdown plan.
“I came here to the Prime Minister’s office to tell you, quote, I think we’re absolutely screwed. I think this country is heading for disaster. I think we’re going to kill thousands of people, ”Cummings said, quoting Assistant Cabinet Secretary Helen MacNamara.
Reuters has reported how late Britain has been in spotting infections, lagged behind with a lockdown and continued to send infected elderly patients back to nursing homes.
« PARDON »
There was no data system to deal with COVID, no way to understand its spread and there was “not even a plan to bury all the bodies,” Cummings said.
Johnson admitted mistakes were made and lessons needed to be learned, but his ministers say they were working at the pace of the biggest public health crisis in a century.
“I take full responsibility for everything that has happened,” Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday. “As I said before… I am very sorry for the suffering that the people of this country have endured.”
He called Britain’s vaccination program a success that will allow the economy to rebound ahead of its peers.
Cummings, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War’, also said he was sorry he was too slow to press the emergency button.
‘I failed and I apologize,’ he said, adding that at one point he pointed to footage of Italy on TV in an attempt to convince Johnson that a lockdown was essential .