British PM Johnson dismissed Covid lockdown 'because people dying were all over 80', ex-aide says

Published July 20, 2021
This combition of photos show British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L), and his former special advisor Dominic Cummings (R). — Reuters/File
This combition of photos show British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L), and his former special advisor Dominic Cummings (R). — Reuters/File

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was not prepared to impose lockdown restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19 to save the elderly and denied the National Health Service would be overwhelmed, his former top adviser said in an interview aired on Monday.

In his first TV interview since leaving his job last year, excerpts of which were released on Monday, Dominic Cummings said Johnson did not want to impose a second lockdown in the autumn last year because "the people who are dying are essentially all over 80".

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".

Britain's opposition Labour Party said the revelations by Cummings strengthened the case for a public inquiry and were "further evidence that the prime minister has made the wrong calls time and again at the expense of public health".

Cummings told the BBC that Johnson told officials that he should never have agreed to the first lockdown and that he had to convince him not to take the risk of 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.

Opinion

Discipline and punish

Discipline and punish

The larger issue is that many within the police and the state view the role of the police as not one of service but of control.
The truly worrying malware
Updated 27 Jul 2021

The truly worrying malware

It’s excessive to hope that governments will surrender even when caught with their hands on the till.
Appointing VCs
27 Jul 2021

Appointing VCs

For VCs of yore, it was more than a job assignment.
Giving peace a chance
Updated 26 Jul 2021

Giving peace a chance

So long as Afghan government forces do not collapse in the face of the Taliban’s military assaults, diplomacy will have a chance.

Editorial

AJK’s ugly elections
Updated 27 Jul 2021

AJK’s ugly elections

All party leaders focused on insulting their rivals instead of talking about issues concerning the AJK electorate.
27 Jul 2021

Refugee concerns

AS Afghanistan slips back into chaos with a rapid Taliban advance, the possibility of refugees spilling over into...
27 Jul 2021

ECP vacancies

FEARS of yet another deadlock between the PTI government and the opposition on the selection of successors for...
26 Jul 2021

Senior citizens’ law

FOR all the cultural emphasis on respect and consideration for our elders, the state itself extends little by way of...
26 Jul 2021

Grim Covid realities

YET another grim milestone was reached last week when we became the 30th country in the world to mark a million...
Islamophobia envoy
Updated 26 Jul 2021

Islamophobia envoy

By calling for the appointment of a special envoy to counter Islamophobia, US lawmaker Ilhan Omar has raised a pertinent issue.