The controversial former chief advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings told MPs that Boris thought Covid-19 was a “scare story” and the “new swine flu” in February 2020.
Mr Cummings addressed the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees.
The UK government has declined to deny that Boris Johnson dismissed Covid-19 as a scare story or claimed it was “only killing 80-year-olds“.
When asked if he had informed the Prime Minister how serious it was, Mr Cummings said: “Certainly, but the view of various officials inside Number 10 was if we have the Prime Minister chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone ‘it’s swine flu, don’t worry about it, I’m going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of’, that would not help actually serious panic.”
Mr Cummings said people died unnecessarily because of UK government failings during the pandemic and said he was sorry that ministers, officials and advisers had fallen “disastrously short” of the standards the public should expect in a crisis.
The former adviser, who left Downing Street last year after a behind-the-scenes power struggle, told MPs: “The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this.
“When the public needed us most the government failed. “I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that.”
Mr Cummings said the prime minister was more worried about the economy at the beginning of the pandemic than coronavirus itself, and said it was wrong to suggest that chancellor Rishi Sunak had been against locking down.
“The Prime Minister’s view, throughout January, February, March, was – as he said in many meetings – the real danger here is not the disease, the real danger here is the measures that we take to deal with a disease and the economic destruction that that will cause,”. Mr Cummings said.
Mr Cummings also said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired over coronavirus failings and “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on the testing target.
He said Mr Hancock performed “disastrously” below the standards expected and the cabinet secretary recommended the Health Secretary should be sacked.
Mr Cummings’ claims about the government having a secret policy for herd immunity at the start of the pandemic were also challenged.
WhatsApp messages from March 2020 reported by Politico showed that Mr Cummings privately ordered senior Cabinet ministers to deny herd immunity was ever government policy.
This disputes Mr Cummings’ claims to have sought transparency and honesty while claiming ministers “lied” about herd immunity.