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Coronavirus

UK COVID-19 response derailed by Trump call to bomb Iraq in 2020: PM ex-aide

Published: Updated:

Former US President Donald Trump asked the UK to join a bombing campaign against Iraq in March 2020, derailing crucial UK COVID-19 planning, according to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former top aide.

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Dominic Cummings told UK Members of Parliament (MPs) Wednesday that emergency meetings to determine the UK’s pandemic response were disrupted by national security staff on March 12, 2020 trying to decide whether to join the US in proposed strikes in the Middle East.

The plan, Cummings alleged, came amid heightened tensions in the Middle East after the US killing of top Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani in a January 3, 2020 Baghdad drone strike.

Cummings, who left his role as adviser in November 2020, made a litany of accusations about the Johnson government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis while being questioned by MPs at a four-hour committee meeting Wednesday.

He described chaotic scenes on March 12 as the government tried to decide whether or not the country should enter lockdown.

“Everything to do with COBRA [emergency meetings] that day on COVID was completely disrupted because you had these two parallel sets of meetings.”

To add to the confusion, Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds was “going crackers” about a story in The Times alleging that the Prime Minister had “grown weary” of the couple’s dog and wanted to rehome it, according to Cummings.

“We had this completely insane situation in which part of the building saying ‘are we going to bomb Iraq?’, part of the building was arguing about whether or not we’re going to do quarantine or not, and the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial,” Cummings told MPs.

The Attorney General convinced the Prime Minister not to go along with the bombing campaign, and Cummings said he told Johnson two days later on March 14 that a full lockdown was needed, the former aide said.

The UK did not enter a full lockdown until March 23.

Cummings has recently made a slew of accusations about the way in which the UK government he was a part of handled the response to COVID-19.

Since leaving his post, he has vocally criticized Boris Johnson via Twitter and in parliamentary committee meetings.

Some of the accusations leveled against his former employer in Wednesday’s questioning include: That the government was unprepared for the pandemic, with key people on skiing holidays in February 2020, that the government did not have a lockdown plan, and that Boris Johnson downplayed the severity of the virus, calling it “the new swine flu.”

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