Ahead of his appearance in front of MP’s on Wednesday (26 May), Dominic Cummings tweeted a photo of the whiteboard used to plan the government’s early response.
The picture revealed various notes from the government’s initial response to the virus, dated on the 13 March 2020, including the priorities, and thoughts and policy-by-whiteboard approach by the government, as 10 Downing Street attempted to react to the Covid-19 crisis.
Here’s a look at some of the information revealed on the whiteboard.
‘Current plan means 4,000 a day dying’
One of the details was no more than a scribble on the whiteboard, which was dated less than a fortnight after the government’s “Action plan” was published, revealed the knowledge of the potential death toll.
The note on the board estimates the current plan, dubbed Plan A, would mean 4,000 people a day dying of Covid would see a “collapse” for the NHS, leaving the service unable to treat other, non-Covid, patients.
No vaccine on 2020
One of the notes at the top of the board says ‘No vaccine in 2020’. This assumption turned out not quite to be true.
One of Dominic Cummings’s key criticisms of the government response was that the UK was stuck with Plan A, but not Plan B because no one had contested the assumption that vaccines would take several years to develop.
The prospect of a longer lockdown of the country, with no vaccination coming in a short space of time, may have encouraged government advisers to consider other options.
Social contact rules
There is also a clearly written three point explanation of social contact rules on the board - ‘less contact, no contact, contact illegal’.
The image was captured on 13 March 2020, showing that the deliberations over social distancing were taking place, envisioning what potential future restrictions may look like, and the potential for legal action to enforce them.
Key names involved
The top of the whiteboard contains the names of key people involved in the planning. Among the names are Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Dominic Cummings, Steve Powers, and Vote Leave campaign data scientist Ben Warner.
Considerations of an app?
Despite the meeting taking place in March 2020, the word “app” floats in the middle of the board.
Without context it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is referring to, but it could be the NHS contact tracing app, which played a role in helping control the virus after lockdowns ended.
Who looks after the people who can’t survive alone?
Another note on the board looks to consider the consequences of putting the UK in lockdown, including who would look after the people who can’t survive alone?
This would become a problem due to the need and complexities of shielding the vulnerable in their homes, and ensuring they have food and medicine to keep them alive.
In evidence to the parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday, Mr Cummings said there was no plan for this group of people, with some officials unwilling to publish the number of a newly set-up shielding hotline because there was nothing to offer those who called.
Who do we not save?
The final line in the corner of the whiteboard is the most jarring - the question of who would not be saved if the NHS came under threat.
If the NHS became overwhelmed, it may have meant that several non-Covid patients would have died because of a lack of staff and beds to treat them. In these situations doctors would have to choose who to treat and who to let die.
Protocols on this were made up but the NHS insists were never put into effect. Cummings argues that, at least in some cases, they were.