Government’s original Covid plan was ‘herd immunity by September’, Dominic Cummings claims in rant at ‘incompetent’ former colleagues

Former adviser also claims country could have avoided lockdowns with ‘competent people in charge’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Saturday 22 May 2021 21:01
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The government’s original plan to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic was to let the virus rip through the population to spread herd immunity, Dominic Cummings has claimed.

In a post on social media the former top Downing Street aide said the media had failed to properly scrutinise and instead “parroted” the government’s claims it had never advocated the approach, despite evidence to the contrary.

He also lashed out at his former colleagues in government and claimed that the country could have avoided the need for lockdowns had it had “the right preparations and competent people in charge”.

His comments come ahead of an appearance before a joint committee of MPs on Wednesday, when he is expected to pin the blame on Boris Johnson for failures in the UK’s response to the coronavirus, which left over 150,000 people dead.

“The media have been generally abysmal on Covid, but even I’ve been surprised by one thing: how many hacks have parroted Hancock’s line that ‘herd immunity wasn’t the plan’ when ‘herd immunity by September’ was literally the official plan in all docs/graphs/meetings until it was ditched,” he said on the post on Saturday afternoon.

In a 5 March 2020 interview Boris Johnson said there was “a need to strike a balance” in imposing restrictions that would flatten the peak of the pandemic to reduce strain on the NHS but allow “the disease, as it were, to move through the population”.

The government’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance told the BBC at the time: “If you suppress something very, very hard, when you release those measures it bounces back and it bounces back at the wrong time.”

He added: “Our aim is to try to reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it.”

At a press conference a week later, on 12 March, Sir Patrick added: “Our aim is not to stop everyone getting it, you can’t do that. And it’s not desirable, because you want to get some immunity in the population. We need to have immunity to protect ourselves from this in the future.”

He later told MPs that herd immunity through simply letting the virus rip through the population was never the plan for the pandemic response.

The UK was notably slower to impose its first lockdown than other neighbouring countries at the same stage of the epidemic, and some experts have blamed the expontential growth of the virus this allowed for the UK’s higher death toll.

Referring to lockdowns, Mr Cummiggs added: “Obviously they’re ‘destructive’. But if you have to do it because the alternative is hundreds of thousands choking to death and no NHS for months for everybody else and the economy sunk because everybody is hiding in terror then earlier/harder is better for health and the economy.

“If we’d had the right preparations and competent people in charge, we would probably have avoided lockdown one, definitely no need for lockdowns two and three. Given the plan was AWOL/disaster and awful decisions delayed everything, lockdown one became necessary.”

He added: “Yes the media is often incompetent but something deeper is at work: much of Westminster was happy to believe Hancock’s bulls*** that ‘it’s not the plan’ so they didn’t have to face the shocking truth. Most political hacks believe in ‘the system’.”

The latest statement by Mr Cummings follows a claim by his allies that he will use the forthcoming parliamentary committee appearance to wreak havoc on Boris Johnson’s administration.

“He’s basically going to try and napalm him,” one ally of Mr Cummings reportedly told The Times.

Enmity between the pair grew as Mr Cummings departed No 10 in November following an internal power struggle with allies of Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds.

But months of silence from the former adviser turned to riotous anger in April after No 10 sources blamed Mr Cummings for leaking the prime minister’s texts.

The former Vote Leave strategist hit back hard, denying the claims and dropping several other related and unrelated bombs on the government operation.

He accused the PM of a “mad and totally unethical” scheme to get Tory donors to pay for a Downing Street flat refurbishment, and claimed Mr Johnson had refused to accept a leak inquiry to protect a friend of Ms Symonds.

But it is at Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Commons health and technology committees where Mr Cummings is expected to spill the beans on what went on behind the scenes during the pandemic.

He will be appearing at a session headlined Coronavirus: Lessons Learnt, and is expected to accuse Mr Johnson of being responsible for excess deaths during the pandemic.

Britain has suffered one of the worst death rates in the world from Covid-19, with repeated delays and dithering over the introduction of lockdown measures blamed.

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