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Large Events Weren't Banned At Start Of Pandemic For Fear Of Overcrowding Pubs With No Plan To Close Pubs, Cummings Claims

Dominic Cummings has criticised the decision to allow mass events to keep going on at the start of the pandemic (Alamy)

3 min read

The controversial decision to allow the Cheltenham Gold Cup to go ahead at the start of the pandemic was because the government feared cancelling it would push people into pubs, but they had not yet considered closing pubs, Dominic Cummings has claimed.

The Prime Minister’s former advisor said because there was still no plan to shut hospitality at the start of March last year, the official advice was to allow the massive horse-racing event to go ahead, along with a Champions League football match featuring Liverpool. Both events have since been linked to significant outbreaks of the virus. 

Appearing in front of a select committee hearing this morning, Cummings accused the Department for Health and Social Care’s logic as “completely flawed”, and the decision to allow the mass events to continue to go ahead while Covid-19 spread around the UK has since been heavily criticised.

“The official advice at the time was doing that wouldn’t really make much difference to transmission,"  Cummings said in the decision to allow the Cheltenham Gold Cup to go ahead.

“Which seems obviously bizarre in retrospect – the idea that we keep having mass events going on through this whole thing.

“But also secondly [cancelling the event] could be actively bad, because you'll just push people into pubs.”

But Cummings said that there was no plan to prevent this outcome by implementing a lockdown that would see pubs closed. 

"No one in the official system and Department of Health drew the obvious logical conclusion, which was ‘shouldn't we be shutting all the pubs as well?'," he said. 

“At this point around about the fifth [of March], the logic was ‘oh yeah, well obviously we're not gonna be closing pubs and closing retail and all of this’, then I sort of see the point of the official advice, because if you're not going to do those things it does have a logic to it.

“Now of course, the logic itself was completely flawed, but that's what the thinking was around the fifth of March.”

It came after he started his evidence by claiming “when the public needed us most, the government failed”.

In an emotional mea culpa over how Number 10 dealt with coronavirus he said the government should have locked down earlier and not pursued a “herd immunity” strategy.

“The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisors like me, fell disastrously short of the standards the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this," Cummings said. 

"When the public needed us most, the government failed.”

Apologising for the deaths caused by the virus he added: “And I'd like to say to all the families of those who died, unnecessarily, how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made, my own mistakes.”

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