Sunday, 24 October, 2021

Boris Johnson defends virus record after ex-aide Dominic Cummings' attack

Cummings opens fire on ministers over pandemic U.K. health chief defends virus record after Cummings attack
Adrian Cunningham | 28 May, 2021, 01:21

"Which is it?" The UK has recorded nearly 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe, and experienced one of the world's deepest recessions in 2020 as three successive lockdowns hobbled the economy. "Many people were left to die in horrific circumstances", he said during his hours of testimony to lawmakers on Wednesday.

A statement from the Prime Minister is expected with the initial comments made in an interview during a visit to Colchester Hospital. "The government rhetoric was, 'We put a shield around care homes and blah blah.' It's complete nonsense", Cummings said.

"I think it is (wrong)", housing minister Robert Jenrick told BBC radio when asked about the allegation from Cummings that tens of thousands of people had died unnecessarily.

Cummings, who was at the heart of government until he was booted out in November, didn't hold back in his criticisms of his former colleagues during his marathon session in Parliament.

The health secretary responded to more allegations made by former senior aide to the prime minister, Dominic Cummings.

"Cummings rains fire on No 10", read the front page of Britain's Times newspaper, while The Daily Telegraph accused the former adviser of seeking revenge on Johnson and Hancock during the hearing after he branded them "unfit" and dishonest.

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: "We absolutely reject Mr Cummings' claims about the health secretary".

He said "it wasn't possible" to test everyone being discharged from hospitals at the start of the outbreak.

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Cummings also singled out Health Minister Matt Hancock for particular criticism, accusing him of having lied about the shortages of personal protective equipment and support for care homes. Mr Cummings said the government's ineptitude and delay had led to many more deaths than necessary.

"We put £1.4 billion extra into infection control within care homes, we established a care homes action plan, I remember very clearly, to ensure that we tried to stop infection between care homes", Mr Johnson said.

Cummings said Hancock should have been fired over coronavirus failings and "criminal, disgraceful behaviour" on the testing target.

The UK has recorded nearly 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe, and experienced one of the world's deepest recessions in 2020 as three successive lockdowns hobbled the economy. Johnson said removing the remaining measures would depend on how much the new variant drove an increase in cases, and the speed of the vaccination campaign.

The government says it will begin an independent public inquiry into its handling of the pandemic within the next year. It is spreading across the country and scientists expect it to become the dominant variant in Britain, but they say existing vaccines appear to work against it. Opposition politicians, and families who have lost loved ones to Covid-19, want it to start sooner.

"But we may need to wait".

But asked again to clarify later in the press conference, he said: "My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care homes when we could do it".