Test-and-trace delayed by Hancock’s ‘stupid’ 100,000-per-day tests pledge, Cummings says

‘It was criminal disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm’, MPs’ inquiry told

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 26 May 2021 14:19 BST
Boris Johnson welcomed Covid ‘chaos’ because it made him more popular, Cummings claims

A badly-needed test-and-trace system was delayed last spring because of Matt Hancock’s “stupid” plan to carry out 100,000 tests a day, Dominic Cummings has alleged.

The ex-chief adviser said officials were told to “hold tests back” – so the health secretary could “go on TV and say ‘look at me with my 100k target’.”

“It was criminal disgraceful behaviour that caused serious harm,” Mr Cummings told MPs.

The blunder led to the testing programme being taken out of Mr Hancock’s hands and given to a separate body headed by Dido Harding, the inquiry was told.

Mr Cummings also stepped up his attack on the health secretary – having alleged he “lied” over PPE shortages – saying he pleaded with Boris Johnson to sack him.

The prime minister was told “we are going to kill” lots of people, if Mr Hancock was kept in his job, but he remains health secretary one year later.

The criticism of the 100,000 tests a day plan revives long-standing criticism that efforts to fight the pandemic were distorted by the target – announced while Mr Johnson was in hospital.

Mr Hancock scrambled to hit the target, but was then widely accused of falsely claiming success when vast numbers of tests were still in the post and hadn’t been completed.

Mr Cummings refused to “speculate” on why the prime minister refused to sack him – when “pretty much all senior people” were warning of “another catastrophe” in the autumn, without big changes.

“He came close to removing him in April [2020], but fundamentally he wouldn’t do it,” he said.

There was no plan for a South Korean-style test-and-trace system at the outbreak of the pandemic because the government was “going for herd immunity”, Mr Cummings said.

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