Friday, June 21

PM defends handling of Covid after Cummings claims

Boris Johnson has defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying none of the decisions have been easy.

The prime minister has come under fire from his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings during an explosive appearance before MPs this morning. Mr Cummings claimed the government failed the public when they needed them most and that the PM initially considered COVID a scare story like swine flu.

Keir Starmer used his weekly chance to question the prime minister to bring up some of the most serious allegations made by Mr Johnson’s former adviser.

The PM denied that his inaction led to needless deaths at the beginning of the pandemic and in reference to Mr Cummings accusing him of failing to realise the severity of COVID-19, he said: I don’t think anybody can accuse this government of being complacent about the virus.

Mr Cummings claimed he, the cabinet secretary and other senior officials told the PM he needed to fire Health Secretary Matt Hancock over 15-20 things, including lying, with the cabinet secretary saying he had lost faith in the health secretary’s honesty.

The PM refused to be drawn on whether Mr Cummings was telling the truth or not, especially about allegedly delaying a circuit break over half term because only 80-year-olds were dying. He said that would be a matter for the inquiry into how the pandemic was handled and said the circuit breaker in Wales did not work.

I’m absolutely confident we took the decisions in the best interest of the British people, he said. And he refused to bring the inquiry forward to this summer, saying he did not want to concentrate valuable time on the inquiry now when we’re still in a pandemic.

Asked about whether the cabinet secretary did say that to Mr Johnson, the PM said: No, I haven’t seen the evidence but the people of this country want us to get on with the delicate business of rolling out the vaccine.