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Former Aide to British Leader Says Government Failed Public in COVID-19 Response

Dominic Cummings, former special advisor for Britain's PM Boris Johnson faces questions from UK lawmakers in London, May 26, 2021.

A former chief aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a parliamentary committee Wednesday the government failed the British people in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a statement Johnson rejects.

Dominic Cummings, who left the government in December, explained to a select committee investigating the government’s pandemic response how Johnson failed to take the pandemic seriously early on, dismissing it as a “scare story.” He said ministers and officials literally went on vacation in February of 2020.

Cummings said, “When the public needed us most the government failed. And I'd like to say to all the families of those who have died unnecessarily how sorry I am for the mistakes that were made and my own mistakes of that."

The former aide said Johnson had been told Britain needed to be locked down on March 14, 2020, but there was no plan to do so. He said the prime minister had been advised the peak of the pandemic would be in June, when, in fact, the National Health Service was already in danger of being overwhelmed.

Cummings had been a chief strategist behind the 2016 Brexit campaign and Johnson's landslide election win in 2019. Since leaving Johnson's team late last year, Cummings has become one of his former boss's most vocal critics over how the prime minister led his team in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, describing it as "disastrous.”

Johnson responded to his former aide's testimony from the floor of the lower house of parliament Wednesday, saying he takes full responsibility for the government’s response to the pandemic. He rejected Cummings claim the government had been complacent in its response to the pandemic at any point.

He said, “I maintain my point that the government acted throughout with the intention to save life and protect the NHS [National Health Service] and in accordance with the best scientific advice. That's exactly what we did."