UK PM Johnson considered having Covid injection in early 2020

Associated Press Dominic Cummings has claimed the government originally planned to try and build'herd immunity

Top British officials anxious that bond markets could turn against them in early 2020 due to the sums being borrowed to finance the pandemic response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former top adviser Dominic Cummings said. Mr Cummings said he knew this was a lie, because Hancock had been told the opposite by experts.

Mr Cummings told MPs that "the logic was, if you go in for the optimal single peak strategy - herd immunity by September - in the same way you don't take vaccines as a kind of urgent priority, you don't take testing as an urgent priority, and that's why the Department of Health said (in mid-March) "we don't need to test everyone any more", because the view was simply, well, 60% or 70% of the country or something are going to get (Covid), that's going to happen for sure". Giving two examples, and confirming he would give the committee written evidence of those and presumably others, Cummings said Hancock had said in Summer 2020 that "everyone who needed treatment got the treatment they required".

The health ministry declined to comment.

With nearly 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth worst official Covid-19 toll, and Johnson was slow to appreciate the significance of the threat from the virus in early 2020 as it spread from China towards Britain's shores.

Though Cummings's attacks have so far failed to dent the prime minister's popularity, his testimony is likely to form the broad lines of scrutiny of a public inquiry next year into the Covid-19 response.

Cummings claimed Sedwill asked him why, and Ben Warner, a data analyst ally of Cummings, said: "Because chicken pox is not spreading exponentially and killing hundreds of thousands of people".

"We have worked flat out to minimise loss of life", he said, without directly addressing numerous claims of the man who had been his closest adviser before an acrimonious split late previous year, and who personally witnessed many of his actions.

He did not directly address many of Cummings's claims.

Mr Cummings said he warned the Prime Minister that "if we don't fire the secretary of state (Matt Hancock) and we don't get the testing in someone else's hands, we are going to kill people and it will be a catastrophe".

His evidence before lawmakers gave an alarming insight into the heart of the British government as it grappled with the onset of what would become the most devastating public health crisis in a century.

Earlier, Mr Cummings said the decision to pursue herd immunity by the Government meant officials thought there was no point in March in building a comprehensive test and trace system.

He said: "The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its Government in a crisis like this".

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.

"The Cabinet Secretary said that to me... and to the Prime Minister".

"Even in late March, PHE said officially, on the record, possibly even to this committee, I can't remember now, 'well, obviously there's just no way that this country is going to do test, track and trace like they're doing it in Asia".

Cummings told the committee: "We had half the Government with me in No10 calling around frantically saying do not do what Hancock says, build the thing properly for the medium term".

In a series of investigations, Reuters has reported how the British government made several errors: it was slow to spot the infections arriving, it was late with a lockdown and it continued to discharge infected hospital patients into care homes.

"There wasn't even a plan to bury all the bodies".

He said the focus on the 100,000 tests a day target "hugely disrupted" parts of Whitehall "because Hancock wanted to be able to go on TV and say "look at me and my 100k target". "I think the secretary of state for health is certainly one of those people".

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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