| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

UK PM Johnson dismissed COVID-19 lockdown as only elderly would die, ex-aide says

In an interview aired on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated he was not willing to implement tight restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in order to rescue the elderly and denied the National Health Service would be overwhelmed.

Dominic Cummings said Johnson did not want to impose a second lockdown in the autumn of last year because “the people who are dying are practically all over 80” in his first TV interview since quitting his post last year, parts of which were broadcast on Monday.

Cummings also claimed that Johnson wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth, 95, despite signs that the virus was spreading in his office at the start of the pandemic and when the public had been told to avoid all unnecessary contact, particularly with the elderly.

The political adviser, who has accused the government of being responsible for thousands of avoidable COVID-19 deaths, shared a series of messages from October that are allegedly from Johnson to aides.

According to Cummings, Johnson quipped that the elderly could “get COVID and live longer” because the majority of those who died were older than the average life expectancy.

Cummings claims Johnson sent him a note saying: “And I’m no longer a fan of the NHS’s (National Health Service) overburdened products. I believe we may need to re-calibrate, folks.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the texts’ authenticity.

The prime minister had taken “the essential steps to preserve lives and livelihoods, backed by the greatest scientific advice,” according to a representative for Johnson.

Britain’s opposition Labor Party said the revelations by Cummings strengthened the case for a public enquiry and were “further evidence that the prime minister has made the wrong calls time and again at the expense of public health”.

Cummings told the BBC that Johnson told officials that he should never have agreed to the first lockdown and that he had to convince him not to take the risk of meeting the queen.

“I said, what are you doing, and he said, I’m going to see the queen and I said, what on earth are you talking about, of course you can’t go and see the queen,” Cummings said he told Johnson. “And he said, he basically just hadn’t thought it through.”

Despite questioning Johnson’s fitness for his role as prime minister and castigating the government’s fight against COVID-19, Cummings’ criticism has yet to seriously puncture the British leader’s ratings in opinion polls. The full interview will be broadcast on Tuesday.

  • Reuters