Kent MP to lead questioning of former adviser to PM

Associated Press Dominic Cummings has claimed the government originally planned to try and build'herd immunity

Associated Press Dominic Cummings has claimed the government originally planned to try and build'herd immunity

Dominic Cummings, the former top aide of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Wednesday said that the government had fallen disastrously short in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic's first wave in early past year as the premier believed it was just a scare story at that time.

"On this insane day of the 12 [March], we're sitting in the prime minister's office and we're talking about the herd immunity plan".

He said: "At this point, the second most powerful official in the country, Helen McNamara, is the deputy cabinet secretary".

It was "like a scene from "Independence Day" with Jeff Goldblum saying 'The aliens are here and your whole plan is broken,"' Cummings said. There is no plan.

Johnson's spokesman said the prime minister had full confidence in Hancock.

"Even in late March, PHE said officially, on the record, possibly even to this committee, I can't remember now, 'well, obviously there's just no way that this country is going to do test, track and trace like they're doing it in Asia".

Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said Dominic Cummings' remarks about care homes were disappointing.

Dominic Cummings accused the British government of being too "slow" to handle the crisis.

This included a potential bombing campaign in the Middle East at the request of Dominic Trump, and a story in The Times newspaper about Boris Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds' dog.

Asked if Britain's top civil servant had disclosed he had lost faith in Hancock's honesty, Johnson said: "The answer to that is no.and I'm afraid I haven't had the benefit of seeing the evidence that he's (Cummings) bringing to the house".

"So we had this completely insane situation where parts of the building were saying, are we going to bomb Iraq, part of the building arguing about whether we are going to argue about are we going to do quarantine or not".

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A little boy, aged around 5, arrived conscious, but had fractured his legs and suffered trauma to his torso and abdomen, he said. Another injured person, an adult, had been also been taken to hospital by helicopter, she added.

Cummings said there was no COVID plan and certainly no plan for a lockdown.

"He laughed and said "you're right, I am more frightened of you having the power to stop the chaos, chaos isn't that bad, chaos means that everyone has to look to me to see who's in charge".

"The truth is, senior ministers, officials, advisers like me fell disastrously short of standards required by the public, he said".

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

During the questioning, Cummings was asked about the government's preparations for a pandemic in general and whether it was the intention of ministers to allow the virus to spread until there was so-called herd immunity.

Later on, Mr Cummings claimed Mr Johnson came close to sacking Mr Hancock in April and added there "was no good reason for keeping him".

Cummings told the committee: "We had half the Government with me in No10 calling around frantically saying do not do what Hancock says, build the thing properly for the medium term. I am truly sorry for the suffering that the people of this country have experienced".

Public Health England (PHE) officials have previously admitted that contact tracing was abandoned when it became apparent Britain was facing a huge outbreak of coronavirus.

"People did not get the treatment they deserved" as a result, he said.

Mr Cummings told MPs that "the logic was, if you go in for the optimal single peak strategy - herd immunity by September - in the same way you don't take vaccines as a kind of urgent priority, you don't take testing as an urgent priority, and that's why the Department of Health said (in mid-March) "we don't need to test everyone any more", because the view was simply, well, 60% or 70% of the country or something are going to get (Covid), that's going to happen for sure".

She added: "Over 30,000 care home residents have died of coronavirus during this pandemic - 25,000 elderly people were discharged from hospitals to care homes without any tests whatsoever, and frontline care workers were left without PPE".

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