UK government failed public on COVID-19 response: Johnson's former chief adviser

UK government failed public on COVID-19 response: Johnson's former chief adviser
UK government failed public on COVID-19 response: Johnson's former chief adviser

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details UK government failed public on COVID-19 response: Johnson's former chief adviser in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — The man who served as Boris Johnson's most senior adviser at the height of the coronavirus pandemic has apologized publicly for the UK government's response to the crisis, which he has said fell "disastrously short" of what the public should expect.

Dominic Cummings, who quit his post in Downing Street last November, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that "when the public needed us most the government failed. And I'd like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily that I am sorry." To date, more than 127,000 British citizens have died within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.

Throughout his evidence, Cummings appeared eager to paint himself as being alert to the seriousness of the pandemic in January 2020, long before many others in government were taking it seriously. He claimed his former colleagues "failed to see the smoke" when Asian countries, notably Taiwan, hit the "panic button" around the turn of the year.

He said that senior government officials were occupied with other activities, be they professional or, in Cummings' words, "literally skiing," which meant the government was not on a "war footing" early enough.

Cummings claimed that the Prime Minister believed the coronavirus to be little more than a scare story and would say things like he wanted to have England's chief medical officer "inject him with Covid" live on air to prove it was nothing to worry about.

Central to Cummings's criticism of Johnson and his government is a lack of preparedness, leading to lockdowns being delayed and policies like herd immunity being pursued.

Cummings claimed that he first told Johnson the UK needed to be put under hard lockdown measures on March 11, 2020. The national lockdown was not imposed until March 23.

Cummings listed numerous reasons for this delay, ranging from a belief that the British public would not go along with "Wuhan-style" measures, to external distractions. These ranged from then-US President Donald wanting the UK to join a bombing mission in the Middle East, to stories about Johnson's fiance, Carrie Symonds, being upset about stories in newspapers about the couple's dog. But ultimately, his main accusation was that the government was simply unprepared and the plan in place at this time was based on falsehoods.

The former adviser also criticized the government's relatively poor data at the start of the pandemic. When asked what was informing decisions, Cummings said that early on, the only data the government could work with before April was numbers he himself was writing onto a whiteboard of admission to hospital intensive care units. He would then multiply these numbers on his iPhone to show where the situation might be in five days' time.

"Once you are looking at ICU admission as your only form of data, you know you're in trouble," Cummings said.

On herd immunity, Cummings claimed that the government was working on an assumption that nothing could be done to stop the virus from spreading and that vaccines would not be "relevant in 2020." He said that UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was "completely wrong" when he said on March 15, 2020, that herd immunity wasn't part of the government's plan, because "herd immunity was regarded as an unavoidable fact."

One of the biggest early failures of the UK's response to COVID-19 was in building a fit-for-purpose test-and-trace system. Cummings said this was the fault of the core of government collapsing around the time that Johnson went into hospital after falling ill with coronavirus.

He said that during this period, Hancock "stupidly" pledged to deliver 100,000 tests a day purely "so he could go on TV" and claim success. He claimed that Hancock directly interfered with the testing program to help him reach his target, preventing the team to build the system properly. Hancock did this, Cummings claims, while the Prime Minister was on what many thought was his "death bed."

He argued, as many others have, that the government's obsession with centralized control of testing prohibited private companies from helping, which meant the UK didn't have enough tests early in the pandemic.

Cummings also criticized the slow pace at which the UK closed its borders. He said that arguments were made that shutting borders looked racist and would cripple the tourism industry. Cummings thinks that this undermined the whole pandemic effort.

Beyond the pandemic, Cummings criticized the whole system of British politics, saying that a system that offers a choice between Johnson or the former leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn "something's gone extremely, extremely, wrong."

He painted the Prime Minister as a man "a thousand times too obsessed with the media" and said that the Health Secretary should have been sacked for numerous reasons, including "publicly lying."

He painted a picture of an insular political system that promotes the wrong types of people and gives them incentives that don't result in the best form of governance.

When asked if he was only giving evidence to settle personal scores, Cummings said he thinks the families of those who died "deserve the truth."

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, Johnson defended his government's actions throughout the pandemic. Without directly addressing Cummings' claims, he accused his opponents of looking in "the rearview mirror" while his government pressed on with its vaccination program. — CNN

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