Johnson’s ex-aide Cummings slams UK response to pandemic


LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser has criticized the government’s response to the pandemic, comparing the health department to a “smoking ruin” when COVID-19 first hit the U.K. hard.

Dominic Cummings testified to parliament’s science and technology committee Wednesday, making his first public appearance since he stepped down late last year following a bitter power struggle at No.10 Downing Street.

Cummings, who had long been a critic of the civil service, said the health department was “just a smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE (personal protective equipment)” last spring. He was also scathing about the bureaucracy that he said prevented an effective U.K. response to the pandemic.

“In February, March, April last year there was no entity in the British state, zero entities, including the prime minister himself, who could make rapid decisions on science funding,” he said, adding that Britain’s current mass vaccination program has only been a success because it was taken out of the hands of civil servants.

Johnson’s office defended the health department’s work, saying Wednesday that “COVID challenged health systems around the world.”

Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, which stands at over 125,900 in total.

Cummings was Johnson’s top aide and a chief architect of the campaign to have Britain leave the European Union. A highly divisive figure, he was widely criticized last year when he violated national lockdown rules, driving hundreds of miles across England after contracting coronavirus.

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