PM ‘wanted to be infected with Covid on live TV… and called virus Kung-Flu’


Boris Johnson referred to Covid as ‘Kung-Flu’ and – before he was infected with the virus – offered to be injected with it live on TV to ‘show it’s nothing to be scared of’, Dominic Cummings will claim today.

They are among the explosive allegations that Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser, will make to MPs investigating the Government’s handling of the epidemic.

In an extraordinary claim, he will accuse the Prime Minister of being responsible for ‘thousands of deaths’ by delaying a second lockdown when a second wave of the virus hit the UK in the winter.

And he will allege Mr Johnson was slow to react to the pandemic because he was on a ‘prolonged holiday’ with partner Carrie Symonds in February last year.

Mr Cummings is expected to be accused by Tory MPs of using today’s appearance before a select committee to ‘avenge’ his sacking in November after he lost a power struggle with Miss Symonds. But Labour will seize on the claims as evidence that Mr Johnson could have done more to save lives.

The Mail has learned that Mr Cummings will allege Mr Johnson:

  • Argued against tough Covid curbs on the grounds that ‘it is only killing 80-year-olds’;
  • Did say ‘no more f****** lockdowns, let the bodies pile high in their thousands’.
  • Said he regretted being ‘pushed’ into ordering lockdowns because the ‘economic damage is more damaging than the loss of life’.

Mr Cummings is due to give evidence to the joint health and science committees for four hours.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus, May 14

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has his Pfizer vaccination jab for Covid-19 at Caird Hall, in Dundee, May 24

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has his Pfizer vaccination jab for Covid-19 at Caird Hall, in Dundee, May 24

Dominic Cummings will likely criticise the PM and elaborate on his claim that the Government initially pursued a 'herd immunity' policy at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis when he gives testimony on Wednesday

Dominic Cummings will likely criticise the PM and elaborate on his claim that the Government initially pursued a ‘herd immunity’ policy at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis when he gives testimony on Wednesday

Boris Johnson (L) is given the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by a nurse at St Thomas' Hospital in London, March 19

Boris Johnson (L) is given the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by a nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, March 19

Dominic Cummings posted a chart claiming that COBR documents had the 'optimal single peak strategy' showing 260,000 dead because the system was 'so confused in the chaos'

Dominic Cummings posted a chart claiming that COBR documents had the ‘optimal single peak strategy’ showing 260,000 dead because the system was ‘so confused in the chaos’ 

Mr Cummings posted another excerpt from a report suggesting that imposing a tough lockdown could merely have caused a second peak at a more dangerous time for the NHS

Mr Cummings posted another excerpt from a report suggesting that imposing a tough lockdown could merely have caused a second peak at a more dangerous time for the NHS 

His claim that Mr Johnson referred to Covid as ‘Kung-Flu’ will be seized on by those who criticise the Prime Minister’s politically incorrect language. The term was coined by Donald Trump in June last year, at which stage the full force of the pandemic had not hit America. By contrast, it had claimed 40,000 lives in the UK.

Dom’s doomsday dossier

Dominic Cummings has set up his appearance before MPs tomorrow with a series of revelations – all of them contested by No10 – about the handling of the pandemic in recent days. Among them are: 

  • Boris Johnson said ‘Covid is only killing 80-year-olds’ when he delayed a national lockdown last autumn.
  • The Government’s ‘Plan A’ in the early months of the pandemic was to pursue a strategy of ‘herd immunity’.
  • The initial response to the crisis was ‘total and utter chaos’ and the original plan was only ditched after Number 10 was warned it would lead to a ‘catastrophe’.
  • Matt Hancock was talking ‘bullsh*t’ when he denied herd immunity was an official policy.
  • Mr Johnson said ‘I’m going to be the mayor of Jaws’ in reference to the local politician in the film who ordered beaches to be kept open despite a deadly shark attack.
  • The PM had no plan for a Covid lockdown last year before experts started ‘screaming’ that hundreds of thousands of people could die. 
  • All three country-wide lockdowns could have been entirely avoided if there were ‘competent people in charge’ and ministers had ‘the right preparations’. 

Mr Trump’s ‘Kung-Flu’ jibe was part of his attempt to pin the blame for the pandemic on China.

Mr Cummings’ allegation that Mr Johnson said he was willing to be injected with Covid to reassure the public is likely to cause a major controversy. Mr Cummings will claim the PM said: ‘I’m going to get Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) to inject me with it live on national TV so everyone can see it’s nothing to be scared of.’ He will tell MPs the PM made the remark on repeated occasions.

In April, Mr Johnson nearly died after he was infected with Covid.

Mr Cummings will also argue that while publicly urging everyone to take the pandemic seriously, privately Mr Johnson downplayed the risks it posed to most people. He will tell the committee the PM said: ‘Covid is only killing 80-year-olds.’

While being at odds with Mr Johnson’s public comments, the statement is borne out by statistics which show the overwhelming majority of people who have died from Covid are over 80.

Mr Cummings will also claim that despite agreeing to order the first lockdown, Mr Johnson later said he regretted having done so.

This was one of the reasons Mr Johnson delayed ordering a second lockdown in the winter, his former aide will claim.

It was after finally agreeing to a second lockdown that Mr Johnson reportedly said: ‘No more f****** lockdowns, let the bodies pile high in their thousands.’

Mr Cummings will say that he and others heard a frustrated Mr Johnson make the remark, first reported last month by this newspaper, moments after leaving the Downing Street meeting where he had approved the second lockdown.

Mr Cummings will also say that before the decision, Mr Johnson vowed: ‘I’m going to be the mayor of Jaws, like I should have been in March (when the first lockdown was ordered).’

The Prime Minister has said that he regards the mayor in the Jaws movie – who refuses to close the resort’s beach even after a shark has killed tourists, for fear of damage to the local economy – as one of his ‘heroes’.

Ministers make humiliating climbdown over Indian variant hotspot travel ban

Ministers appear to have made a humiliating climbdown over a ban on visiting Indian variant hotspots today after they were hammered by MPs and local chiefs for imposing ‘local lockdowns by the back door’.

Tory and Labour politicians lined up to condemn the chaos caused by a change in online guidance, warning people against visiting Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. 

The shift went unnoticed for four days and sparked a huge backlash, with the Government scrambling to explain why there had been no formal announcement. 

Downing Street has argued that the recommendations to the hotspot areas were first issued on May 14 – when the PM urging people to be ‘extra cautious’ – before being ‘formally’ published online last week.

No10 tried to cool the row by stressing that the guidance – which is still online – was ‘not statutory’ and that the Government wanted to move away from ‘top-down edicts’ as lockdown eases. 

However, at a press conference with other local leaders this afternoon, the Tory leader of Bolton Council David Greenhalgh said ministers had now clarified that there are no extra restrictions. 

‘As long as they follow the guidance I don’t believe residents in Bolton should be cancelling holidays,’ he said.

It came as the UK recorded 2,493 new infections — a 3.4 per cent rise on last week — and 15 deaths, up on the seven last week.

A source close to Mr Cummings said: ‘From March through to the autumn, the PM said we should never have locked down. That was why he was so reluctant to do it again in November.

‘He said, ‘the big danger is not Kung-Flu but the harm caused in trying to stop it. I was right all along and should not have been pushed into the first lockdown. The economic damage caused by lockdowns is more damaging than the loss of life caused by Covid’.’ Mr Cummings’ extraordinary view is that by delaying a second lockdown, Mr Johnson is responsible for thousands of deaths.

Mr Cummings will tell MPs that one of the reasons Mr Johnson was late in reacting to the crisis was because he was on a ‘prolonged holiday’ with Miss Symonds at Chevening in Kent, one of the ministerial grace-and-favour homes, and had ‘personal distractions’. The couple stayed at Chevening in February after spending Christmas and the New Year in the Caribbean after the 2019 election.

MPs will be told by Mr Cummings that Mr Johnson did not want to interrupt the Chevening break, where they were ‘planning to announce their engagement and Carrie’s pregnancy’.

The announcement was made on February 29, days before the first Covid death was reported in Britain.

Mr Cummings will also take aim at Health Secretary Matt Hancock over claims that the Government initially planned to use ‘herd immunity’ to combat Covid.

The former No 10 aide is believed to be ready to hand over a key document which he says upholds his claim that Mr Hancock’s initial plan could have led to 250,000 deaths and there being ‘no NHS for months’.

Contrary to recent reports, Mr Cummings does not have tape recordings of private conversations with the Prime Minister. But he does have a large quantity of WhatsApp and text messages from senior Downing Street figures.

A Downing Street spokesman said last night: ‘Throughout this pandemic, the Government’s priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS and support people’s jobs and livelihoods across the United Kingdom.

‘There is a huge task for this Government to get on with. We are entirely focused on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the roadmap and distributing vaccines while delivering on the public’s priorities.’

Britain’s daily Covid cases creep up again with 2,493 positive tests in 3.4 per cent jump on last week

Daily coronavirus cases have crept up slightly again today in the UK, with 2,493 tests recorded in the country — a 3.4 per cent rise on last week. 

It continues a seven-day trend of rising case numbers, although overall the infection rate remains low despite the rapid spread of the Indian variant.

Deaths with Covid also increased today to 15, up from just seven on Tuesday last week. The large week-on-week rise of 114 per cent is likely to be just a blip because of day-to-day fluctuations in registrations. 

And Britain’s mammoth vaccination drive has continued at pace, with 122,379 first doses dished out on Monday, taking the overall number to nearly 38.2million. Some 332,955 second doses were also given out yesterday, with more than 23.2million people in the country now fully vaccinated. 

The figures come after separate official data released today showed weekly Covid deaths had fallen to their lowest level since before the first lockdown last March in England and Wales.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed 73 virus fatalities occurred across the two countries in the week ending May 14 — the fewest since the seven-day spell that finished on March 13, 2020 (44) and a fall of 32 per cent on the previous week (108).

Weekly Covid registered deaths increased slightly, from 129 to 151. But experts said this was because of the bank holiday weekend at the start of the month, which skewed data because some of the deaths occurring on that weekend were not recorded until the following week. 

No10 blasts ‘hypocrite’ Dominic Cummings for trying to ‘rewrite history’ as they DENY his claim that herd immunity was official policy on eve of his bombshell appearance before MPs

  • Dominic Cummings claimed ministers pursued a herd immunity policy last year 
  • He said plan changed because thousands would die and NHS would collapse
  • Mr Cummings insisted ‘Plan A’ was to get herd immunity by the summer 
  • But he said plan was ‘disastrously misconceived’ and ‘Plan B had to be bodged’
  • Tweeted a graph showing an ‘optimal’ 259,000 death toll and high of 510,000 

By Henry Martin for MailOnline 

Dominic Cummings is a ‘rank hypocrite’ who is trying to ‘rewrite history’, a government source says ahead of his appearance before MPs investigating the handling of the pandemic.

Mr Cummings, the former chief adviser to Boris Johnson, will likely criticise the PM and elaborate on his claim that the Government initially pursued a ‘herd immunity’ policy at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis when he gives testimony on Wednesday.

Downing Street has denied ‘herd immunity’ was ever the official policy for dealing with coronavirus, but Mr Cummings claims the Prime Minister had no plan for a Covid lockdown before experts started ‘screaming’ that hundreds of thousands of people could die. 

Mr Cummings described the government planning for epidemics as ‘part disaster, part non-existent’, but a government source told The Times: ‘It’s revisionism. He’s going round saying ”if only competent people were in charge”. 

‘This was a guy with unrivalled authority. You can either be an all-powerful special adviser or a busted flush with no powers and influence. You can’t be both. He’s a rank hypocrite.’

Former No10 chief Ms Cummings has also accused Matt Hancock and the Cabinet Office of failing to understand the concept of ‘herd immunity’ as the pandemic erupted. 

He said the original intention was to allow the virus to play out quickly to avoid a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS in winter, and claimed Mr Johnson only abandoned a ‘herd immunity’ strategy after being warned it would lead to 250,000 deaths and ‘destroy the NHS’.

No 10 has denied the PM had ever pursued herd immunity as an idea, saying it had ‘never been government policy’.

Downing Street has denied 'herd immunity' was ever the official policy for dealing with coronavirus - as Dominic Cummings prepares to deliver bombshell testimony about the government's response to the crisis

Downing Street has denied ‘herd immunity’ was ever the official policy for dealing with coronavirus – as Dominic Cummings prepares to deliver bombshell testimony about the government’s response to the crisis

Mr Cummings escalated his extraordinary assault on Boris Johnson, claiming the PM had no plan for a Covid lockdown before experts started 'screaming' that hundreds of thousands of people could die

Mr Cummings escalated his extraordinary assault on Boris Johnson, claiming the PM had no plan for a Covid lockdown before experts started ‘screaming’ that hundreds of thousands of people could die

It comes amid reports that Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Mr Cummings have fostered a mutual respect that has sparked rumours among some Conservative MPs that the pair could ally for a future Gove bid to become PM. 

‘Gove is permanently on manoeuvres,’ a former Cabinet minister told The Telegraph. ‘The man manoeuvres more than Napoleon did. He is forever trying to position himself so that he will always be the man who was right.’ 

 Mr Cummings has claimed that by March 13 last year the government still had ‘neither an intention to lockdown nor… any official plan for doing so’. 

Saying that experts had been ‘screaming’ at the PM, the maverick adviser posted a chart from the time showing a 259,000 death toll as an ‘optimal single peak strategy’ – against a ‘do nothing’ option that could have meant 510,000 casualties. 

A full lockdown was eventually announced on March 23, with significant curbs having stayed in place ever since as the government wrestled to keep infections down. The death toll on the main measure is just under 128,000.  

The latest salvo from Mr Cummings came as he prepares for an explosive evidence session with MPs on Wednesday amid rumours he is determined to force the PM out.

Downing Street brushed off the onslaught, denying allegations that surfaced over the weekend that Mr Johnson had missed key Cobra meetings early in the crisis because he was writing a book about Shakespeare.   

Mr Cummings has already branded the Department of Health a ‘smoking’ ruin over its dismal efforts to procure PPE and ventilators, saying the vaccination drive has only been successful because it was taken out of the department’s hands.   

Dominic Cummings

Boris Johnson

Mr Cummings (left), former chief adviser to Boris Johnson (right), claimed ministers pursued a herd immunity policy last year until it became clear thousands would die and the NHS would collapse

Mr Cummings wrote: ‘Even AFTER we shifted to PlanB, COBR documents had the ”OPTIMAL single peak strategy” graphs showing 260k dead cos the system was so confused in the chaos’.

Downing Street insists that allowing large numbers to catch the virus and become immune to prevent its spread had never been its plan.

But Mr Cummings said ‘herd immunity’ was ‘officially seen as unavoidable’ in the week of March 9, 2020, and that it would come either ‘in a single peak over by September, or in a second peak in winter’. 

He said that the first option was ‘seen as easier to manage and less of a catastrophe so it was Plan A’, but then the government ‘started to figure out Plan B to dodge herd immunity until vaccines’.    

Jenny Harries

Matt Hancock

Test and Trace chief Jenny Harries (left) and Matt Hancock (right) have been singled out in the lengthy Twitter attack from Mr Cummings

Mr Cummings said that in the week of March 9 – seven days before Mr Johnson told people to stop non-essential contact with others – it ‘became clear’ that neither Health Secretary Matt Hancock nor the Cabinet Office understood herd immunity.

PM denies missing key Covid meetings because he was writing a book 

Boris Johnson did not miss emergency meetings on the response to the emerging coronavirus pandemic because he was working on a book, Downing Street has insisted.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he was ‘not aware’ of Mr Johnson doing any work on a biography of William Shakespeare while in office.

Mr Johnson did not chair the first five meetings of the Cobra emergency committee in January and February 2020, but Downing Street insisted this was not unusual and was nothing to do with any book.

No 10 faced questions after a Sunday Times report suggested officials fear Dominic Cummings will use an appearance before MPs to accuse Mr Johnson of missing key meetings on the crisis because he was working on a biography of Shakespeare, because he needed the money to fund his divorce from Marina Wheeler, his second wife.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spent time on the book, his official spokesman said: ‘No, not that I’m aware of.’

The Prime Minister has been ‘ensuring the public are kept as protected as possible during this global pandemic’, the spokesman added.

In response to the suggestion the book was responsible for him missing Cobra meetings, the spokesman said: ‘No, and I think there are a number of incidents I can run you through where Cobras have been chaired by relevant secretaries of state.’

He said the policy would have left hundreds of thousands ‘choking to death’, no NHS treatment for months, unburied dead and an economic implosion.

Ministers then moved to ‘Plan B’, he said, adding: ‘Critical as I am of the PM in all sorts of ways, it’s vital to understand the disaster was not just his fault.

‘The official plan was disastrously misconceived … and a Plan B had to be bodged amid total and utter chaos.’

Adding to his attack, Mr Cummings dismissed the idea that the government was always intending to lock down – but just waited for the right moment. 

‘SAGE said *literally the opposite*: lockdown = suppression = ‘near certainty’ of 2nd peak & this was thought to be much WORSE than single peak/herd immunity by Sep, hence graph ,’ he wrote.

Mr Cummings said that by March 14 one of the things being ‘screamed at the PM was ”there is *no plan for lockdown* & our current official plan will kill at least 250k & destroy the NHS”.’ 

Mr Johnson did not miss emergency meetings on the response to the emerging coronavirus pandemic because he was working on a book, Downing Street insisted.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he was ‘not aware’ of Mr Johnson doing any work on a biography of William Shakespeare while in office.

Mr Johnson did not chair the first five meetings of the Cobra emergency committee in January and February 2020, but Downing Street insisted this was not unusual and was nothing to do with any book.

No 10 faced questions after a Sunday Times report suggested officials fear Dominic Cummings will use an appearance before MPs to accuse Mr Johnson of missing key meetings on the crisis because he was working on a biography of Shakespeare, because he needed the money to fund his divorce from Marina Wheeler, his second wife.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spent time on the book, his official spokesman said: ‘No, not that I’m aware of.’

The Prime Minister has been ‘ensuring the public are kept as protected as possible during this global pandemic’, the spokesman added.

In response to the suggestion the book was responsible for him missing Cobra meetings, the spokesman said: ‘No, and I think there are a number of incidents I can run you through where Cobras have been chaired by relevant secretaries of state.’

Downing Street is braced for a potentially highly damaging onslaught on Wednesday following Mr Cummings' acrimonious departure from Number 10 at the end of last year

Downing Street is braced for a potentially highly damaging onslaught on Wednesday following Mr Cummings’ acrimonious departure from Number 10 at the end of last year

 

Anne-Marie Trevelyan rejected Mr Cummings’ claim that achieving herd immunity was the official plan drawn up to combat the pandemic.

The energy minister told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘It was never the policy of this Government.

Covid jabs for under-30s ‘by the end of the week’: Younger people are set to be offered vaccine

Coronavirus vaccines could be offered to those in their twenties within days as the rollout continues at pace.

And in more good news – a new study suggests the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are effective against the Indian variant.

The jabs combat the new mutant almost as well as the Kent strain, a study by Public Health England found.

Matt Hancock said the findings were ‘groundbreaking’ – raising hopes restrictions can end as planned on June 21.

The Health Secretary also celebrated the UK yesterday passing an ‘incredible milestone’ after 60million doses were administered. It comes after the NHS gave a record number of second doses on Saturday, latest figures show.

The NHS lowered the eligibility age for the jab three times last week with those aged 32 and 33 the latest to benefit.

This is expected to be lowered to 30 early this week and officials believe they can drop it even further soon after.

A source said: ‘The vaccine programme has been progressing at a rate of knots, getting to ever younger age groups, while continuing to offer second doses at a record pace.

‘If all goes to plan, everyone in their thirties will hopefully have received their invite for a jab within 72 hours or so, with some in their twenties being called forward within the next week to ten days.’

The PHE study showed that the Pfizer vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose. This compares with 93 per cent against the Kent variant.

The AstraZeneca jab was also found to be 60 per cent effective against the Indian variant after two doses and 66 per cent effective against the Kent strain.

But both vaccines were only 33 per cent effective against the Indian variant three weeks after one dose, compared with 50 per cent for Kent.

‘Boris Johnson was very clear that the only thing that mattered was that we make sure that we saved lives and we keep our NHS safe and able to function, not only to protect those who might get Covid but also everybody else.’

She said the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had talked about herd immunity being ‘one of the potential tools in the armoury’ but it was not the policy goal.

Ms Trevelyan, who was in the Cabinet at the time, said: ‘I’m very comfortable that the Prime Minister never had as his policy herd immunity.’

Downing Street is braced for a potentially highly damaging onslaught from Mr Cummings on Wednesday when he gives evidence to MPs investigating the Government’s response to the pandemic. 

In a foretaste of what to expect, the former No 10 adviser also took aim at former deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries, who now heads the UK Health Security Agency.

He claimed she had said in early March that masks were a ‘bad idea’ because ‘we don’t want to disrupt people’s lives’ and that acting ‘too early we will just pop up with another epidemic peak later’. ‘So Whitehall has promoted her, obviously,’ he tweeted sarcastically.

Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday denied that herd immunity had been the Government’s original policy.

She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘Our strategy was always about protecting public health, saving lives and protecting the NHS.

‘Absolutely all colleagues involved in those meetings and discussions, working with the chief scientist and the chief medical officers, absolutely recognised that from the very difficult discussions that we had.

‘At the time of a crisis, when government is making very, very tough decisions, difficult decisions, we put public life and protecting the public at the forefront of all those decisions.’

Dr Harries said the idea of herd immunity had been ‘misinterpreted’ by some and the strategy was instead to build resistance to Covid through the jab programme.

‘What you’re looking at in a population is to try and see at which point your population would be safe, and this is what we do with this very successful vaccination programme that we have,’ she said.

‘That’s not the same as saying, which I think has been misinterpreted in many places, that the aim would be to allow people to become infected and develop herd immunity. That has never been on the agenda.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Herd immunity has never been a policy aim or part of our coronavirus strategy.

‘Our response has at all times been focused on saving lives and ensuring the NHS was not overwhelmed. We continue to be guided by the latest scientific advice.’

Mr Johnson missed several meetings of the Government’s emergency committee, Cobra, at the start of the Covid-19 crisis and officials are said to be concerned that Mr Cummings will blame his absence on his work on Shakespeare.

Publication of the book has been repeatedly pushed back from its original release date of October 2016.

The Prime Minister has reportedly been paid a six-figure advance for Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius.

Mr Johnson has written a number of books, including the international bestseller The Churchill Factor.

A government source last night described the Shakespeare claim as ‘total nonsense’.

Mr Cummings has been posting an ever-lengthening Twitter thread about the response to the pandemic

Mr Cummings has been posting an ever-lengthening Twitter thread about the response to the pandemic

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