Dominic Cummings threatens to reveals ‘crucial’ Covid documents and claims Government secrecy ‘contributed greatly to the catastrophe’ of the first wave
- Boris Johnson’s ex top aide threatened to reveal ‘crucial historical document’
- He took to Twitter today in a typically lengthy diatribe about the the pandemic
- Claimed secrecy obsession ‘contributed greatly to the catastrophe’ of Covid
Dominic Cummings today set the stage for an explosive appearance in front of MPs next week, claiming an obsession with secrecy at the heart of Government ‘contributed greatly to the catastrophe’ of the Covid pandemic in the UK.
Boris Johnson’s former top aide also threatened to reveal a ‘crucial historical document’ when he is grilled on No10’s handling of coronavirus at a joint session of the health and science committees on May 26.
He took to Twitter today in a typically lengthy diatribe about the the pandemic, saying ‘openness to scrutiny would have exposed Government errors weeks earlier than happened’.
He urged the Government to learn from this in their handling of the vaccine rollout and the Indian variant by making ’99 per cent’ of it public to increase confident yet further.
It came after last night be branded the UK’s border policy a ‘joke’ amid questions over whether Indian arrivals should have been haled sooner.
No10 is bracing itself for a mauling from the PM’s former Svengali when he takes questions from ministers next Wednesday.
Today he appeared to goad the Prime Minister over a document from his time in Downing Street
He asked his 37,000 Twitter followers today whether he should reveal it when he appears or keep it secret by selling it for charity. He later clarified that he would be releasing the document to the committee whatever happened.
Boris Johnson’s former top aide threatened to reveal a ‘crucial historical document’ when he is grilled on No10’s handling of coronavirus at a joint session of the health and science committees on May 26.
Mr Cumminsg appeared to goad the Prime Minister, asking his 37,000 Twitter followers today whether he should reveal the document or keep it secret by selling it for charity.
In comments that will be greedily lapped up by MPs on the committees due to question him, Mr Cummings said today: ‘One of the most fundamental & unarguable lessons of Feb-March is that secrecy contributed greatly to the catastrophe. Openness to scrutiny would have exposed Government errors weeks earlier than happened.
‘So why are MPs accepting the lack of a public plan now for VTF (Vaccine Task Force) viz variants? Especially when rumours reach me that the silent entropy of Whitehall is slowly turning VTF back into a ”normal” entity?
‘The best hedge re a variant escaping current vaccines is PUBLIC SCRUTINY of Government plans. This will hopefully show it’s been taken seriously. If not, better learn now that the Government has screwed up again than when ”variant escapes” news breaks.
‘I can think of no significant element of Covid response that would not have been improved by discarding secrecy and opening up.
‘This was symbolised by e.g how COBR could not be used: a constrained STRAP (secret information) environment could not cope with the scale/speed, another important lesson.
‘Having watched classified elements of Covid response, Government could make the vaccine plans 99 per cent public without risks, ”national security” almost totally irrelevant to the critical parts of the problem, a few things could be withheld while publishing all crucial parts of the plan.’
Mr Cummings, who has seen the classified elements of the Covid-19 response, also suggested that vaccines could have been developed faster if ‘human challenge’ trials, where volunteers are deliberately infected with the virus, had begun immediately.
That could have meant ‘jabs in arms (in the) summer’, he said, but the vaccine taskforce (VTF) was ‘constrained’ in ways they should not be.
Human challenge trials only took place this year, but the development of vaccines was rapid in comparison with work on jabs for other diseases.
Downing Street rejected his claim about the border today. Asked what checks had been mad eon documents he might have taken with him when he left Downing Street in December the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘I am not going to be getting into individual cases. Obviously there are clear rules that are abided by in these situations.’
Asked if Mr Johnson was concerned about Mr Cummings suggesting that he has the only copy of a crucial historical document on Covid decision making, the spokesman added: ‘I haven’t spoken to the Prime Minister on that. He is on a visit this morning. I am not going to speculate about what information individuals may or may not choose to present to committees.’
It came as Boris Johnson gathering his Cabinet for crunch talks today amid grim claims there is a ‘close to nil’ chance of the June 21 lockdown easing going ahead as hoped.
The places in England where the Indian variant is spreading quickest: Bolton, Blackburn, Sefton, Bedford, South Northamptonshire and Nottingham are seeing the biggest rises. Note: Some areas, such as Stevenage, Broxbourne and Oadby are recording very few total cases of the virus
NHS figures show that vaccine uptake among all over-40s, which is at 83 per cent average across England, is below average in all but one (Sefton) of the Indian variant hotspot areas. Although experts do not think the at-risk older age groups are the ones driving outbreaks at the moment, it could be cause for concern if the virus spreads to them
The PM and his senior ministers have been meeting with anxiety over the fast-spreading Indian variant of coronavirus running high.
Ministers are preparing emergency plans that could see local restrictions used to combat hotspots while the rest of the country relaxes, or even the next stage of the roadmap delayed.
In an echo of the tiers system brought in last summer, people in the worst-hit areas could be told to stay at home and restaurants and shops forced to close – with stricken businesses handed more grants to keep them afloat.
There are also growing doubts about whether lockdown can be lifted across England on June 21. Just a week ago Mr Johnson was holding out the prospect of a broad lifting of legal constraints and social distancing, but it now appears that a review of the rules is unlikely to report this month.
The fears come as ministers scramble for ways of controlling outbreaks, with more than 2,300 cases of the Indian Covid variant now identified in England. Figures have quadrupled in just 10 days and now account for at least one in five infections.
Labour and local leaders have been demanding vaccines are rushed through for younger people in areas where the strain is taking hold – something that has so far been rejected.
One government source told ITV News that some of the loosening that took effect this week – including ‘Rule of Six’ socialising indoors and in bars and restaurants – might have to be rolled back.
‘It is clear some social distancing will have to be retained, not everything we’ve set out for 21 June is likely to happen,’ they said.
‘But it is also possible some of the easing we’ve done today will have to be reversed.’
Any backtracking would be a huge blow to Mr Johnson after he vowed a ‘cautious but irreversible’ exit from lockdown.
Tory ministers and MPs have been warning the PM against changing course, complaining that curbs must not be extended to protect people who are refusing vaccines – which are believed to be effective against the Indian variant.
One Cabinet minister warned that missing the June 21 milestone could become Mr Johnson’s ‘Theresa May moment’ – a reference to her failed Brexit deadline.
‘This freedom date is burned on people’s brains in the same way as her date for leaving the EU,’ the source said. ‘When she missed it, she was finished.’
The source said No 10 had ‘overreacted to panicked warnings from the usual suspects’ in parts of the health establishment.
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