Boris Johnson resisted imposing a second Covid-19 lockdown in England last year because the people dying from the virus were “essentially all over 80”, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
The former chief adviser to the Prime Minister shared WhatsApp messages with the BBC in which he said he longer believed in “all this NHS overwhelmed stuff” and was reluctant to tighten restrictions as cases rose in Autumn.
What did Dominic Cummings say?
Mr Cummings shared WhatsApp messages sent by Mr Johnson with the BBC which show his resistance in wanting to impose tougher restrictions, despite soaring coronavirus cases last year.
The political adviser claimed Mr Johnson had wanted to allow coronavirus to “wash through the country” rather than destroy the economy.
He also alleged that the Prime Minister was too beholden to lockdown-opposing Tories and elements of the media which convinced him the first lockdown was a mistake.
In his first broadcast interview, Mr Cummings accused the Prime Minister of putting “his own political interests ahead of people’s lives”.
The messages, which appear to have been sent by the Prime Minister to aides on 15 October, read: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on covid fatalities.
“The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer.
“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent ) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this nhs overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.
“There are max 3 m in this country aged over 80. It shows we don’t go for nation wide lockdown.”
Speaking in his first broadcast interview, the political aide said that Mr Johnson’s attitude at the time flitted between claims that “it’s all nonsense and lockdowns don’t work anyway” and worrying about killing the economy “just because of people dying over 80”.
After coronavirus cases started rising rapidly again last autumn, the government debated what measures were needed to control the spread.
Mr Cummings told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg that he, the UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty had all pushed for tougher restrictions to be put in place from mid-September.
However, a second lockdown was not announced for England until 31 October, with the new measures taking effect on 5 November. It was said that a four-week lockdown was needed to protect the NHS amid fears that deaths could reach “several thousand a day” unless “tough action” was taken.
The former aide also accused Mr Johnson of being heavily influenced by the media in his decisions and referred to the Telegraph, which previously employed him as a journalist, as his “real boss”.
Mr Cummings left Downing Street in November following a bitter row and has repeatedly accused his former boss of being too slow to impose the second lockdown, which came into effect on 5 November.
What has Downing Street said?
In response to the claims, Downing Street has said the Prime Minister took all the “necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods” throughout the pandemic, with every decision being guided by scientific advice.
A Number 10 spokeswoman responded: “Since the start of the pandemic, the Prime Minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
“The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
“The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone has dismissed Mr Cummings’s allegations, saying the former aide was driven by revenge and had failed to prove a series of explosive claims he made about the inner workings of No 10 before parliamentary committees in recent months.
When will the interview air?
Dominic Cummings: The Interview will air on BBC Two at 7pm on Tuesday (21 July).
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title NationalWorld.