Tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily because of Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, it was claimed on Wednesday.
In an astonishing admission, the Prime Minister’s former closest aide Dominic Cummings told MPs his old boss was “fundamentally unfit for office”.
In bombshell testimony that will be deeply damaging to the man he helped propel into No 10, he claimed: “Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die.”
More than 128,000 people have lost their lives to Covid since the start of the pandemic – more than half since the PM refused to bring in a quick lockdown last autumn.
He insisted that Mr Johnson did say he would rather see “bodies piled high” than take the country into another lockdown – despite the PM dismissing the claims as “total, total rubbish”.
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In marathon session of the Commons health and science committees that lasted more than seven hours, Mr Cummings painted a picture of a chaotic and dysfunctional Downing Street in denial over the scale of the disaster ahead.
“The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its Government in a crisis like this,” he said.
“When the public needed us most, we failed. I’d like to say to all the families how sorry I am for the mistakes we made”.
But he poured scorn on the PM for delaying bringing in lockdowns, ignoring the scientific advice and for putting the economy above the nation’s health in the autumn.
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Mr Johnson refused to bring in another lockdown in September, finally agreeing to a month-long shutdown in November which scientists claimed was too little, too late.
“He wasn’t taking any advice, he was just taking his own decision that he was going to ignore the advice. The Cabinet wasn’t involved or asked.”
Government scientists, ministers and No 10 aides had all urged the PM to introduce a short “circuit breaker” lockdown in September last year.
But he declined despite modelling showing the NHS was going to get “smashed again” because of the economic impact of lockdown.
“I said to him the whole lesson of what happened before is that by delaying the lockdown to later it had to be more severe, it had to last longer, the economic disruption is even worse anyway.
“We will have killed God knows how many thousands of people in the meantime who have caught Covid who wouldn’t have caught it if we act now – surely you have got to learn the lessons from the past.
“And the Prime Minister decided no and said basically we are just going to hit and hope.”
Mr Cummings accused his old boss of failing to take the virus seriously even after it nearly killed him.
In an extraordinary attack on Matt Hancock, he accused the Health Secretary of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour”, alleging he had lied repeatedly throughout the pandemic and should have been sacked.
Mr Cummings also turned his fire on Carrie Symonds, suggesting she had pursued “completely unethical and clearly illegal” attempts to pack No 10 with her own friends.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson said: “I take full responsibility for everything that has happened.
“I am truly sorry for the suffering the people of this country experiences.
“But the Government acted throughout with the intention to save lives, protect the NHS and in accordance with the best scientific advice.”
Yet much of Mr Cummings’ extraordinary evidence threw those claims into doubt.
The former top aide – who was forced out of No 10 at the end of last year after an internal power struggle – said those on the front line of the pandemic were like “lions being led by donkeys”.
He claimed the PM had told him he liked to be surrounded by “chaos” in Downing Street, because it meant everyone had to look to the PM “to see who is in charge”.
Asked if he thought Mr Johnson was a “fit and proper person” to get the UK through the pandemic, Mr Cummings replied: “No.”
Early last year as Covid-19 spread its grip across the country, Mr Johnson initially thought the virus was just a “scare story” and the “new swine flu”, MPs heard.
The PM had offered to ask Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty “to inject me live on TV” to show there was nothing to fear from the virus.
Key people in Government “literally went skiing” and the PM disappeared for a “holiday” at official residence Chevening as it took its grip on the country last February.
But the former adviser revealed that he texted the PM on March 12, 2020: “We’ve got big problems coming.
“The Cabinet Office is terrifyingly sh*t – no plans, totally behind pace.
“We must announce today that if you feel ill stay home. We’re looking at 100,000 to 500,000 deaths.”
The next day, top civil servant Helen McNamara warned him that the UK was “absolutely f***ed” and coronavirus would “kill thousands of people”.
After a briefing from Department of Health officials, she stormed into No 10 and said: “I have been told for years there was a plan for this.
“There is no plan, we’re in huge trouble. I think we are absolutely fucked.
“I think this country was heading for a disaster, I think we’re going to kill thousands of people.”
But the decision to lockdown was put off again as No 10 was embroiled in internal rows over quarantine, a US request to support a bombing campaign in Iraq, and the PM’s dog.
Mr Cummings claimed that Carrie Symonds was “going crackers” and demanding the press office focus on a “completely trivial” newspaper story about Dilyn.
The former top aide also criticised the Government for failing to protect care homes and the PM for refusing to bring in a tough border policy to stop new variants arriving.
He claimed Mr Johnson wanted to be like the Mayor in the film Jaws, who kept the beaches open despite the threat of shark attacks.
Mr Cummings said it would be “intolerable” for the Government to delay the public inquiry into the Government’s chaotic handling of the pandemic.
It is due to start in Spring 2022 but many fear won’t conclude before the next election.
He claimed Mr Johnson was “desperate” to avoid facing up to his disastrous decisions last autumn which pushed up the death toll.
“Tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die,” he said.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for delay.
“The longer it is delayed, the more people will rewrite memories, the more documents will go astray, the more the whole thing will just become cancerous”.
He said: “Very serious allegations have been made against Boris Johnson and his handling of Covid.
“No more delays. A public inquiry needs to start this summer.”
Fran Hall, 60, from Buckinghamshire, lost her husband Steve Mead, 65, to Covid last year, just three weeks after the couple were married.
“According to Dominic Cummings today, the Prime Minister had been advised to bring in a lockdown in September, and he refused. Perhaps, if he had done so, Steve would still be here,” she said.
“It has been a deeply difficult experience hearing him spell out what we all feared was the truth about the chaotic and fatally irresponsible situation within the heart of the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic.
“Mr Cummings stated more than once today that tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die, and that the deaths were a result of inaction or decisions taken too late… this is a horrific thing to hear.”
VIDEO LOADINGDOMINIC CUMMINGS SAYS PM ‘LIKED CHAOS’
Mert Dogus, 18, from London, lost his father, a 49-year-old cab driver who had no underlying health conditions to Covid in March last year.
“I believe Cummings apologised but an apology isn’t going to cut it, they need to do much better,” he said.
“If lives are at stake they should be prioritised but the fact that Boris was on holiday around this time as well and not taking it seriously is shockingly unprofessional.
“It makes me feel like the Government doesn’t care about us unless we contribute a lot to the economy.
“It shows that my family and I have to take initiative to these dangerous situations to protect ourselves and our community – because the Government fails to do so.”
Meredith, 32, from Cumbria, lost her father after he contracted Covid in hospital in January.
“Cummings absolutely failed and shouldn’t have been in the position he was – he’s right on that front, it’s crackers,” she said.
“He didn’t do the right thing. Instead he propped up Boris Johnson throughout the pandemic while at the same time making a mockery of the system he devised.
“I’m so angry I feel ill. My father is dead and I know he didn’t have to die like that.”https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mirror.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2Fpms-shame-cummings-skewers-dithering-24193325%3Futm_source%3Dmirror_newsletter%26utm_campaign%3Ddaily_morning_newsletter2%26utm_medium%3Demail&cre=bottom&cip=86&view=web
Matt Fowler of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “Today is a horrible, upsetting and bleak day for the over 150,000 bereaved families across the country.
“The evidence from Cummings is clear, that the Government’s combination of grotesque chaos and uncaring flippancy is directly responsible for many of our loved ones not being with us today.
“The refusal to have an urgent statutory inquiry with a rapid review phase risks others joining them. It is clear that there are incredibly serious questions to be asked of those in power.”138212091369
Dave Dawes, chair of the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Failures in planning, decision-making and accountability left nursing staff dangerously short of the protection they needed from the very beginning of the pandemic.
“Hearing today’s proceedings will have been difficult for anyone who has lost a colleague, family member or friend to Covid-19.
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