Mon, 20 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Soaring dementia care costs reach £42 billion in UK – and families bear the brunt Partner content
An international call to G7 leaders for financial commitments to fight neglected tropical diseases Partner content
By Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases
Time for a prevention-led model to rebuild the nation’s health Partner content
Press releases

Dominic Cummings Claims PM Dismissed Covid As 'New Swine Flu' And Wanted To Be Injected With Virus On Live TV

3 min read

Boris Johnson wanted to be infected with Covid by Chris Whitty live on television in a bid to reassure the public, and to urge people to gather "like chicken pox parties" to encourage herd immunity, Dominic Cummings has claimed.

The former senior adviser has claimed the Prime Minister dismissed the risk of the virus as a "scare story" in the early months of the pandemic.

In a series of damaging claims, Cummings told MPs that he had not advised Johnson to attend meetings of the government's emergency Cobra committee because it was felt it wasn't "the best use of everyone's time".

He claimed that there was a fear among officials that if the PM was to chair the meetings that it would actually lead to concerns about the pandemic being played down.

Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, Cummings said: "The view of various officials inside No.10 was that if we have the PM 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 serious planning.

He added: "The basic thought was that in February the Prime Minister regarded this as just a scare story... he described it as the new swine flu."Johnson was hospitalised with a severe case of Covid in April 2020, and spent several nights in intensive care. 

The PM later thanked NHS staff for saving his life during the period he was infected with the virus.

In today's hearing Cummings defended his own decision not to attend the early meetings of the emergency planning committee.

"One of the huge problems was things leaking from Cobra – practically everything – so I had conversations I didn't want leaking, I had them privately," he said. 

"Look at the record, the supposedly secret meetings for Brexit leaked like a sieve continually."

He added: "I was having meetings about it, but with people like [chief scientific adviser] Patrick Vallance."

Cummings also insisted that cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill urged the Prime Minister to go on TV to explain a plan for the country to achieve herd immunity which was "like the old chicken pox parties".

Describing the meeeting, he said: "We are sitting in the Prime Minister's office and we are talking about the herd immunity plan. 

"The Cabinet Secretary said 'Prime Minister, you should go on TV tomorrow and explain to people the herd immunity plan, it's like the old chicken pox parties. We need people to get this disease because that's how we get herd immunity by September'."

Cummings said he and other officials had told the senior civil servant to dump the analogy, because "chicken pox is not spreading exponentially and killing hundreds of thousands of people".

He added: "You could sense in the whole room there was this kind of shock and it was only really at that moment we realised.

"To stress, this wasn’t some weird thing the Cabinet Secretary had come up with – he was saying what the official advice to him from the Department of Health was. 

"It was a huge big deal for me and [DHSC official] Ben Warner to say basically we think this whole thing is wrong.

"Should we have done it earlier? In retrospect, we should and I’m deeply, terribly sorry that we didn't."

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by John Johnston - MP Warns That Online Hate Could Lead To More Real World Attacks On Parliamentarians


Coronavirus Health
Partner content
Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

Find out more