Dominic Cummings has accused the government of backing a herd immunity strategy in the early stages of the pandemic and subsequently lying about doing so.
Cummings, former adviser to prime minister Boris Johnson, has been publicly criticising Downing Street on social media and through his blog for several weeks and is scheduled to give evidence at a select committee later this week.
What did Dominic Cummings say about herd immunity?
In a series of Tweets sent over the weekend, Cummings criticised Matt Hacock, saying it was “bulls**t” when the health secretary said herd immunity wasn’t the plan.
He also accused Downing Street of “appalling ethics” and said it was “V[ery] foolish” to lie about whether herd immunity had been the plan.
He wrote: “No10 decided to lie: ‘herd immunity has never been… part of our coronavirus strategy’. V foolish, & appalling ethic, to lie about it. The right line wd(sic) have been what [the] PM knows is true; our original plan was wrong & we changed when we realised.
He also wrote that Matt Hancock and the Cabinet Office did not understand the impact of herd immunity, which would be “1000s and 1000s choking to death + no NHS for *anybody* for months + dead unburied + econ implosion”.
He claims that if we’d had “the right preparations” and “competent people in charge” then the first lockdown could “probably” have been avoided and there would “definitely” have been no need for the second and third lockdowns.
Cummings has previously criticised Johnson over what he called “mad and totally unethical” behaviour over the James Dyson lobbying row.
Did the government pursue a policy of herd immunity?
Cummings argues that the government acted too late, pursued the wrong strategy initially and as result had to lockdown too late, resulting in a high number of deaths and significant economic harm.
Cummings claims that the government first decided to follow a so-called ‘herd immunity’ strategy, and realised too late that it would mean hundreds of thousands of deaths, which is why when restrictive measures did come they were less effective.
While government ministers, including health secretary Matt Hancock, have denied that this was the plan, chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance did publicly back the policy in March 2020.
Others have pointed comments made by a government scientific adviser, David Halpern in March during a BBC interview.
He said: “There’s going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows as we think it probably will do, where you’ll want to cocoon, you’ll want to protect those at-risk groups so they basically don’t catch the disease and by the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population.”
Some argue that while it is true the government did believe it would be necessary for most of the population to achieve some degree of immunity, they did not actively encourage people to get infected or try to speed this process up.
Rather, they thought that a large wave of infections was inevitable at some point and felt that it may be better to let it occur in spring rather than face a major wave during winter which might overwhelm the NHS.
However, the government was forced to change its approach due to the number of deaths, but acted late to do so.
When will Dominic Cummings give evidence to parliament?
Cummings is set to give evidence to the health and science and technology select committee joint investigation into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The session is widely expected to be explosive, with the PMs former adviser likely to provide previously unseen government documents and correspondence to back up his claims.
The session will take place on Wednesday (26 May) at 9:30am and will be available to watch online here, or on BBC Parliament.