LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unwilling to impose lockdown restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 to save the elderly and denied that the National Health Service would be overwhelmed, his former said top advisor in an interview broadcast on Monday.
In his first TV interview since leaving his job last year, excerpts of which were released Monday, Dominic Cummings said Johnson didn’t want to impose a second lockdown last fall because “the people who are dying are essentially all over 80.”
Cummings also claimed Johnson wanted to meet Queen Elizabeth, 95, despite signs of the virus spreading in his office at the start of the pandemic and when the public had been told to avoid all unnecessary contact, especially with the elderly.
The political adviser, who accused the government of being responsible for thousands of preventable COVID-19 deaths, shared a series of October messages allegedly from Johnson to aides. read more
In one post, Cummings said Johnson joked that the elderly “could get COVID and live longer” because most people who die had passed the average age of life expectancy.
Cummings claims Johnson messaged him to say, “And I’m no longer buying all this overpowered stuff from the NHS (National Health Service). Folks, I think we might need to recalibrate.”
Reuters could not independently verify that the messages were genuine.
A Johnson spokesman said the prime minister had “taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice”.
Britain’s opposition Labor party said Cummings’ revelations strengthen the case for a public inquiry and are “additional evidence that the Prime Minister has made the wrong calls time and again at the expense of public health”.
Cummings told the BBC Johnson had told officials he should never have agreed to the first lockdown and that he should convince him not to risk meeting the Queen.
“I said, what are you doing, and he said, I’m going to the queen and I said, what the hell are you talking about, of course you can’t go to the queen,” Cummings said. Johnson. “And he said, he really just hadn’t thought about it.”
Despite questioning Johnson’s suitability for his role as prime minister and denouncing the government’s fight against COVID-19, Cummings’ criticism has yet to seriously shatter the British leader’s ratings in opinion polls. The full interview will be broadcast on Tuesday.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; adaptation by Richard Pullin
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