Ex-aide brands UK's Johnson 'unfit' to be PM over Covid failures

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Prime Minister of being

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Prime Minister of being"missing in action

Dominic Cummings, former special advisor for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces questions from lawmakers over the government's COVID-19 response, in London, Britain, May 26, 2021, in this screen grab taken from video.

He said the prime minister then ignored scientists' advice to implement another lockdown in September, belatedly acting in November as infection rates surged again, too late to stop a winter wave of deaths.

With nearly 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth highest official COVID-19 toll, far higher than the government's initial worst-case estimates of only 20,000.

Meanwhile, Johnson defended the government's response Wednesday, saying "to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly hard". Cummings said that was contrary to briefings from the government's health experts, who had said some patients had not received necessary treatment.

Mr Johnson hit back at some of his allegations, insisting that the government's priority had always been to "save lives".

The testimony of Mr Cummings, the brains behind the "Leave" campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, was much anticipated after he began attacking Mr Johnson's coronavirus policies and financial dealings in recent weeks after quitting the government in December.

"In February [2020], the prime minister regarded this as just a scare story", Dominic Cummings told Parliament's science and health committees as part of an investigation into the UK's pandemic response.

Comparing officials' eventual realisation of the situation to a scene in the movie "Independence Day" after an alien invasion, Mr Cummings said the deputy cabinet secretary conceded to him that "there is no plan, we're in huge trouble".

Cummings repeated an allegation, which Johnson has denied, that the prime minister late past year said he would rather "let the bodies pile high" than impose a second lockdown.

Lithuania, UK, Ukraine restrict flights from crossing Belarus airspace
Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya urged the global community to go further in isolating the regime. Shortly after the landing, the 26-year-old Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend were led out of the plane.

Cummings said that afterwards, despite almost dying himself of Covid, Johnson regretted the decision and said he should have acted like the mayor in "Jaws", who keeps the beaches open despite a monstrous shark lying in wait.

By the time Mr Johnson did order another lockdown in late October, Mr Cummings said their relationship had broken down.

"I failed and I apologise", he said, adding that at one point, he pointed to images of Italy on the television in an attempt to convince Johnson that a lockdown was essential.

A spokesman for Hancock rejected the extensive criticism from Cummings, saying he will continue to work supporting the National Health Service (NHS).

"We absolutely reject Mr Cummings' claims about the Health Secretary", Hancock's team said, according to the BBC.

The former adviser, who helped secure Brexit and win the 2019 general election, was one of the most influential figures in Mr Johnson's Downing Street operation and was in the room for numerous critical Covid meetings of previous year.

Despite Mr Johnson riding high after successful local election results in England this month, Mr Cummings' testimony could refocus attention on his government's patchy performance responding to the pandemic.

The 49-year-old was criticised for undermining the government's lockdown message early in the pandemic when he went on a lengthy cross-country journey with his family.

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