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Former adviser condemns UK PM over handling of COVID-19 pandemic


Former adviser condemns UK PM over handling of COVID-19 pandemic
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. (FP)

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LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was disastrously slow to impose a lockdown in 2020 because he thought COVID-19 was a scare story and even considered getting injected with coronavirus on “live” television to show it was benign, his former chief adviser said.

Johnson subsequently caught COVID-19 early in the pandemic and was so ill that he was moved to intensive care at a London hospital, where he received litres of oxygen. He later said plans had been prepared to announce his death.

In a blistering attack on the British state, Dominic Cummings told lawmakers that the government was completely unprepared for the worst public health crisis in decades and that ministers, including the prime minister, were on holiday in February 2020, some skiing.

Such was Johnson’s scepticism about COVID-19, he even told officials he was considering getting the government’s chief medical advisor to inject him with the novel coronavirus to show the public it was not a big threat, Cummings said.

“The prime minister regarded this as just a scare story,” Cummings said, adding the view of officials was Johnson’s attitude was “don’t worry about it and I’m going to get Chris Whitty to inject me ‘live’ on TV with coronavirus”.

“When the public needed us most, the government failed,” Cummings told lawmakers, adding that it was “crackers” that someone such as Johnson got to be prime minister.

Cummings cast the state as woefully disorganised, dominated by “groupthink” and run by ministers such as Health Secretary Matt Hancock who, he said, should be sacked for lying to the public and the government.

With almost 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world’s fifth worst official COVID-19 toll.

Though Cummings’ attacks have so far failed to dent the prime minister’s popularity, his testimony is likely to form the broad lines of scrutiny of a public inquiry next year into the COVID-19 response.