UK PM’s former adviser confirms Johnson said ‘let the bodies pile high’

UK PM’s former adviser confirms Johnson said ‘let the bodies pile high’

He said that throughout that year he had repeatedly clashed with Mr Johnson on Covid policy, describing how his push for a lockdown last March, later defence of that decision and calls for tougher border measures all saw him lock horns with the Prime Minister. "As I've said before".

Weeks later, Johnson announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 - leading to a spell in intensive care during which he nearly died, he later admitted.

With nearly 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth highest official COVID-19 toll, far higher than the government's initial worst-case estimates of only 20,000.

Mr Johnson defended the Government's handling of Covid at Prime Minister's Questions, saying: "I don't think anybody could credibly accuse this Government of being complacent about the threat that this virus posed at any point".

"It's true that I hit the panic button (in March 2020) and said we've got to ditch the official plan..."

Mr Cummings's marathon appearance before a joint session of the Commons Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee, in which just one half-hour break was taken during more than seven hours of questioning, was politically explosive.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: 'The Prime Minister and Home Secretary now have very serious questions to answer about the dire failings they have overseen - and must urgently get a grip of the unsafe border chaos they have created'.

The mass of attacks and allegations Mr Cummings delivered - some of which he vowed to back up by handing over texts, notes and WhatsApp messages to MPs - is likely to be picked up in later committee hearings and next year's Covid public inquiry.

Cummings, the strategist behind the 2016 Brexit campaign and Johnson's landslide election win in 2019, left Downing Street late a year ago, carrying his personal belongings in a box, after falling out with the prime minister.

He related meetings in early 2020 when it started to dawn on some officials that Johnson's resistance to a lockdown was a deadly mistake. Cummings said there was no COVID plan and certainly no plan for a lockdown. I think it's a disaster that I acted too late.

Instead, Johnson said he was going to get chief medical officer Chris Whitty to inject him "live on TV with coronavirus" so that "everyone realizes it's nothing to be frightened of", Cummings testified.

Reuters has reported how Britain was slow to spot the infections arriving, was late with a lockdown, and continued to discharge infected elderly hospital patients into care homes.

"I've come through here to the Prime Minister's Office to tell you, quote, I think we are absolutely fucked".

Johnson has denied reports he had would rather "let the bodies pile high", but asked whether he had heard the prime minister say those words, Cumming replied: "Yes", confirming a report by the BBC.

There was no data system to deal with Covid, no way to understand its spread and there was "not even a plan to bury all the bodies", Cummings said. "As I've said before".

"I apologise for not acting earlier and if I had acted earlier then lots of people might still be alive".

He has pointed to Britain's vaccination programme as a success that will allow the economy to rebound before its peers.

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