Covid: Hancock statement as Cummings fallout continues

Grant Boone
May 27, 2021

"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", Cummings said.

Asked about Cummings's critique at a weekly question-and-answer session in parliament, Johnson said nobody could credibly accuse him or his government of complacency.

Weeks later, Johnson announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 - leading to a spell in intensive care during which he nearly died, he later admitted.

Mr Hancock was repeatedly attacked by the prime minister's former adviser during a seven-hour-long committee hearing.

"The view of various officials inside Number Ten was, if we have the Prime Minister chairing Cobra meetings and he just tells everyone "It is swine flu, don't worry about it, I'm going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus, so everyone realizes it is nothing to be to be frightened of, ' that would be, that would not help actually serious planning", Cummings said".

But he blasted senior United Kingdom officials for failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Mr Cummings said the Conservative leader initially branded coronavirus "a scare story", was consumed by issues in his private life and too reluctant to impose a lockdown in March 2020 because of the economic impact.

He accused officials of "catastrophic" group-think, pursuing a haphazard strategy of so-called herd immunity before belatedly abandoning it when the likely death toll became clear.

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Cummings' "very grave allegations" appeared to be "well-founded" and the health secretary would have to "give us an explanation" in order for the country to "maintain confidence in him".

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"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 and for my own mistakes", he said.

Cummings said that afterwards, despite almost dying himself of Covid, Johnson regretted the decision and said he should have acted like the mayor in "Jaws", who keeps the beaches open despite a monstrous shark lying in wait.

A spokesman for Hancock rejected the extensive criticism from Cummings, saying he will continue to work supporting the National Health Service (NHS).

Dominic Cummings leaves the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, 26 May 2021.

Johnson defended the government's response on Wednesday, saying "to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly hard".

Hancock "should've been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in meeting after meeting in the cabinet room and publicly", the former adviser said.

Despite Mr Johnson riding high after successful local election results in England this month, Mr Cummings' testimony could refocus attention on his government's patchy performance responding to the pandemic.

Johnson has admitted that mistakes were made and that lessons need to be learned, but his ministers say they were having to working fast, under pressure, in the face of a huge crisis.

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