Boris Johnson thought coronavirus was just a “scare story” in February 2020 and would have wanted to be injected with the virus on live TV to show it wasn’t a threat, his former chief adviser has claimed.
Dominic Cummings, who was chief adviser to the UK Prime Minister throughout the pandemic until his departure in November, told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that Johnson considered coronavirus “the new swine flu,” and Downing Street officials were concerned about the dismissive attitude.
“In February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story,” said Cummings. “He described it as the new swine flu... The view of various officials inside Number 10 was, if we have the Prime Minister chairing Cobra meetings [meetings convened to coordinate responses to major crises], and he just tells everyone, ‘It’s like swine flu, don’t worry about it, I’m going to get Chris Whitty [England’s Chief Medical Officer] to inject me live on TV with coronavirus so everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of,’ that would not help with serious planning.”
The explosive claims came as Cummings gave evidence before a committee of MPs, voicing concern over the UK government’s response to the pandemic and actions that led to the death of more than 120,000 people.
His evidence paints a picture of a government hugely unaware of the scale of the problem and a chaotic senior leadership. Other claims include that Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for “15-20” things and that “herd immunity” was always the government’s strategy, despite several denials.
The government has faced significant criticism for being slow to implement a national lockdown during the first wave of the virus. In late March, large-scale events were still legal in the UK like the Cheltenham Festival, a horse race event with over 150,000 attendees, which is likely to have accelerated the spread of the virus.