U.K. Denies Claims by Cummings It Pursued Covid Herd Immunity
The U.K. government pushed back on claims from the former chief aide of Prime Minister Boris Johnson that officials pursued a herd immunity strategy in the early days of the pandemic.
Dominic Cummings, who is due to give evidence on the government’s handling of the pandemic to lawmakers on Wednesday, unleashed a series of tweets on Saturday criticizing the U.K.’s response.
He said that letting enough citizens become infected in order to reach natural herd immunity was the “official plan in all docs/graphs/meetings” until early March 2020, when it became clear that such a policy would lead to catastrophe.
While Johnson’s government has won plaudits for its rapid vaccine rollout, his actions in handling the virus remain under intense scrutiny, increasing the focus on Cummings’ appearance this week.
Critics say Johnson was consistently too late in imposing coronavirus lockdowns, delays which they say contributed to the U.K. registering Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic at more than 127,000.
“How ‘herd immunity by Sep’ cd have been the plan until that week is a fundamental issue in the whole disaster,” Cummings wrote Saturday.
When asked about the allegations in an interview on the BBC on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that was “not at all” the plan. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency also said it wasn’t the nation’s strategy.
Since leaving his role late last year, Cummings has emerged as a vocal critic of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
In the same thread, he suggested the U.K. could have avoided its second and third lockdowns, which started in November and January, with “the right preparations and competent people in charge.”
Cummings resigned after a tumultuous period in Johnson’s government, in which he clashed with other officials, ripped up conventions of government, and sparked a national outcry with a 250-mile (400 kilometer) road trip at the height of the first pandemic lockdown.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.