'He wanted to be injected with coronavirus’: Dominic Cummings says PM thought COVID was a ‘scare story'
The prime minister's former chief adviser accused Johnson of failing to take COVID-19 seriously, dismissing it as no worse than swine flu, and of going on holiday for two weeks as the virus took hold in Europe.
The accusations were part of a series of damning claims from Cummings as he gave evidence to the House of Commons health and social care and science and technology committees.
Cummings, who left Downing Street in November last year after a fallout with Johnson, said: "In terms of the prime minister… in February the prime minister regarded this as just a scare story. He described it as the new swine flu.
"The view of various officials in Number 10 was if we have the prime minister chairing COBRA meetings and he just tells everyone: 'It’s swine flu, don’t worry about it, I’m going to get Chris Whitty to inject me live on TV with coronavirus, everyone realises it’s nothing to be frightened of.'
"That would not help serious planning."
Johnson has faced numerous accusations of failing to take COVID seriously at the start of the outbreak. As late as March last year, the PM said publicly that he was still shaking people's hands.
At the start of the hearing, Cummings apologised for the government's failings during the pandemic, saying that people died unnecessarily because of the slow response. He told the committee: “When the public needed us most, the government failed."
“I would like to say to all the families of those who died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and for my own mistakes at that.”
He added Downing Street was not on a “war footing” to respond to the outbreak, and that “lots of key people were literally skiing” in February. Johnson himself took a holiday in his Kent country house that month.
Cummings accepted some responsibility for the government's failures, admitting he “did not follow up” and “push” on pandemic preparations at the end of January 2020.
He said it was not until the end of February that it became clear the plans were “hollow”.
Watch: Dominic Cummings apology to committee