U.K.’s Covid Messaging Risked Deadly Results, Cummings Says

The U.K. lacked the skills and resources to deliver key messages to the public at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with potentially “deadly consequences,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former special adviser.

Dominic Cummings, who stepped down as Johnson’s highest-profile aide in November, said in a witness statement that the Cabinet Office, the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and the National Health Service were ill-equipped to communicate with citizens when the virus started spreading rapidly a year ago.

“They did not have the people or skills needed to undertake this type of public communications at speed,” he said in a witness statement released as part of a London lawsuit Monday. “Some of the first drafts of mass communication material were confusing and confusion clearly could have deadly consequences.”

The London lawsuit is challenging why the government awarded a contract worth more than 564,000 pounds ($785,000) contract to research firm Public First, the owners of which are friends with Cummings. Public-interest group, the Good Law Project, accuses the government of awarding the contract without any kind of procurement competition.

“It’s one thing to have a transparent competition where one or some of the decision-makers are familiar with the bidders, but it’s quite another to have a single decision-maker who is friends with the only company considered for the work,” said Jolyon Maugham, lawyer and director of the Good Law Project.

“We believe government has misled the public on how and why their money was spent in this contract,” he said.

Cummings told the court that “urgent help was needed to communicate effectively essential health messages to the public” and the government “was not doing it properly.”

The Cabinet Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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