UK leader Boris Johnson wanted to get injected with COVID-19 on live TV to prove there was “nothing to be frightened of” — just weeks before it almost killed him, his controversial former chief adviser testified Wednesday.
“In February , the prime minister regarded this as just a scare story,” axed aide Dominic Cummings told Parliament during seven hours of testimony into the UK’s pandemic response.
“He described it as the new swine flu,” Cummings claimed, blasting his former boss for taking a two-week vacation rather than “operating on a war footing” that month.
Instead, Johnson said he was going to get chief medical officer Chris Whitty to inject him “live on TV with coronavirus” so that “everyone realizes it’s nothing to be frightened of,” Cummings testified.
Weeks later, Johnson announced on March 27 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 — leading to a spell in intensive care during which he almost died, he later admitted.
Cummings also caught COVID-19 early in the pandemic — and sparked calls for his resignation after getting caught driving 250 miles across the country while infected, despite a nationwide stay-at-home order.
He admitted to Parliament Wednesday that he did not tell the whole truth at the time, apologizing and calling it “a case study of how not to handle something like this.”
The self-styled political disruptor even admitted that he is “not smart” — calling it “completely crazy that I should have been in such a senior position” in government.
“It’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there, just the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there,” he said of the eccentric New York-born prime minister.
The government accused Cummings of downplaying the fact that he was at the heart of many of the decisions he was now publicly trashing.
“He was there at the time — what his motives would be I will leave to others,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
However, Cummings — who was axed amid a power struggle in November — did admit to sharing the blame for early inaction.
“The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me, fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this,” Cummings said.
“People did not get the treatment they deserved. Many people were left to die in horrific circumstances. And I’d 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.”
He likened the response around the time of the UK’s first lockdown, last March 23, to an “out-of-control movie” that was “lions led by donkeys.”
It was “like a scene from ‘Independence Day’ with Jeff Goldblum saying ‘The aliens are here and your whole plan is broken,’” Cummings said.
“Number 10 [Downing Street] was not operating on a war footing in February on [COVID] in any way, shape or form.
“Lots of key people were literally skiing in the middle of February,” he said, including Johnson, who “went away on holiday for two weeks.”
“When the public needed us most, the government failed,” Cummings said. “Tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die.”
As of Wednesday, the UK has recorded almost 128,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe, with nearly 4.5 million confirmed cases.
It also experienced one of the world’s deepest recessions in 2020 as three successive lockdowns hobbled the economy.
Johnson defended the government’s response Wednesday, saying “to deal with a pandemic on this scale has been appallingly difficult.”
“I don’t think anybody could credibly accuse this government of being complacent about the threat that this virus posed, at any point,” Johnson said in the House of Commons.
“We have at every stage tried to minimize loss of life, to save lives, to protect the [health service] and we have followed the best scientific advice that we can.”
His spokesman said the government would not be engaging with every accusation made by Cummings.
With Post wires