politics

Boris Johnson 'told to advise Brits to have chicken pox parties to catch Covid'



Dominic Cummings claimed a top civil servant suggested that the PM urge the public to mingle to contract the virus – and said that herd immunity was considered an ‘inevitablity’

Boris Johnson was advised by a top civil servant to tell people to host chicken pox-style parties to allow them to catch coronavirus.

Dominic Cummings claimed that Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill had raised the idea of the PM going on TV to urge people to catch the virus to boost herd immunity.

In an explosive Commons hearing, the ex-aide said herd immunity was considered an “inevitability” by officials and ministers because it would have been impossible to stamp out the spread of the virus.

Initially the Government thought measures to halt the spread of the virus would simply delay the peak until the winter – and cause havoc for the NHS, Mr Cummings said.

But in mid-March a new plan had to be rushed out to prevent a catastrophe.







Dominic Cummings made the explosive claims during a Commons committee hearing
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Image:

PA)


Mr Cummings told MPs: “We are sitting in the Prime Minister’s office, the Cabinet were talking about the herd immunity plan.

“The Cabinet Secretary [Mark Sedwill] said ‘Prime Minister you should go on TV tomorrow and explain to people the herd immunity plan and that it’s like the old chicken pox parties, we need people to get this disease because that’s how we get herd immunity by September’.

“I said ‘Mark [Sedwill], you have got to stop using this chicken pox analogy, it’s not right’ and he said ‘why’ and Ben Warner [a No10 aide] said ‘because chicken pox is not spreading exponentially and killing hundreds of thousands of people’.

“To stress, this wasn’t some thing that Cabinet Secretary had come up with, he was saying what the official advice to him from the Department of Health was.”


Mr Cummings said the early strategy was based on the assumption that no vaccines would be ready in 2020 so the approach was to delay the peak to protect the NHS.

Ministers believed it was “inconceivable” that the British public are going to accept strict lockdowns seen in Asia at the start of the crisis.

He went on: “So we only actually have a real choice between ‘one peak and herd immunity by September’ – terrible, but then you have got through it by the time the next winter comes; if you try to flatten it now this second peak comes up in winter time, that’s even worse than summer, so horrific as the numbers look in summer the numbers will be even worse if this happens in October, November, December time.”

Downing Street has repeatedly insisted that herd immunity was never the strategy amid controversy over the idea of allowing the virus to rip through the population.


But Mr Cummings said he was “completely baffled” why No 10 has tried to deny that herd immunity was the official plan early last year.

He said: “It’s not that people were thinking this is a good thing and we actively want it, it’s that it’s a complete inevitability and the only real question – it’s one of timing, it’s either one of herd immunity by September or it’s herd immunity by January after a second peak.

“That was the assumption up until Friday March 13.”

But by March 11-12 2020, he said it was clear “we had already gone terribly wrong”.

On March 16, the Prime Minister said it was time to stop non-essential travel and contact, with the first lockdown beginning on March 23.





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