In an interview aired on Monday, Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser indicated he was not willing to apply lockdown restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19 to save the elderly and argued the National Health Service would be swamped.
Dominic Cummings said Johnson did not want to impose a second lockdown in the autumn of last year because “the people who are dying are practically all over 80” in his first TV interview since quitting his post last year, parts of which were broadcast on Monday.
Cummings also claimed that Johnson wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth, 95, despite signs that the virus was spreading in his office at the start of the pandemic and when the public had been told to avoid all unnecessary contact, particularly with the elderly.
The political adviser, who has accused the government of being responsible for thousands of avoidable COVID-19 deaths, shared a series of messages from October that are allegedly from Johnson to aides.
In one message, Cummings said Johnson joked that the elderly could “get COVID and live longer” because most people dying were past the average age of life expectancy.
Cummings alleges Johnson messaged him to say: “And I no longer buy all this NHS (National Health Service) overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.”
Reuters could not independently verify whether the messages were genuine.
A spokesperson for Johnson said the prime minister had taken “the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice”.
The allegations by Cummings bolstered the case for a public enquiry, according to Britain’s opposition Labour Party, and were “more proof that the prime minister has taken the wrong calls time and time again at the expense of public health.”
Johnson informed officials, according to Cummings, that he should never have consented to the initial lockdown and that he had to persuade him not to risk meeting the queen.
“I said, what are you doing, and he said, I’m going to see the queen and I said, what on earth are you talking about, of course you can’t go and see the queen,” Cummings said he told Johnson. “And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through.”
Despite questioning Johnson’s fitness for his role as prime minister and castigating the government’s fight against COVID-19, Cummings’ criticism has yet to seriously puncture the British leader’s ratings in opinion polls. The full interview will be broadcast on Tuesday.