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Coronavirus

British PM slammed ‘hopeless’ health minister over COVID-19 handling: Cummings

Published: Updated:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in private WhatsApp exchanges slammed his health minister’s “hopeless” handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a former top aide claimed Wednesday.

Dominic Cummings, who stepped down as Johnson’s top adviser in December, posted screenshots of WhatsApp exchanges apparently between him and the prime minister in March and April 2020 as the UK battled the first wave of the pandemic.

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A file photo shows British PM Boris Johnson speaks during a debate in London, UK May 11, 2021. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters)
A file photo shows British PM Boris Johnson speaks during a debate in London, UK May 11, 2021. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters)

The prime minister apparently responded, “Totally (obscenity) hopeless” to a comment by Cummings that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was unsure he would reach a target of 10,000 virus tests per week on schedule.

In another comment, Johnson blamed Hancock for the UK’s difficulty in getting hold of ventilators. “It’s Hancock. He has been hopeless,” the message said.

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The messages appear to show Cummings playing a dominant role in his dealings with the prime minister, who at one point asks him: “Wtf do we do?”

Johnson did not respond to a question on the posts from an MP at Prime Minister’s Questions in parliament on Wednesday.

Cummings, a key strategist behind the Conservative Party’s 2019 election victory and the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, said he was posting the messages to back up his explosive allegations against Hancock in evidence given to lawmakers during select committee hearings in late May.

Speaking to MPs, Cummings on May 26 singled out Hancock for criticism, alleging he lied to colleagues on numerous occasions, including over pledges to test all elderly patients released from hospital back into care homes.

Cummings said the health minister “should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things” after “lying to everybody on multiple occasions, in meeting after meeting, in the cabinet room and publicly.”

Hancock last week rejected the claims as he gave evidence to MPs, denying he had ever said anything to Johnson he knew was untrue.

Cummings in his evidence to MPs also condemned Johnson’s leadership during the pandemic, saying he was “unfit for the job.”

Britain has been one of the country’s worst hit by the pandemic, recording nearly 128,000 deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

A successful vaccination drive in Britain has since helped bring deaths down sharply.

But the emergence of the Delta variant, initially called the Indian variant, has led to an increase in cases and anxiety over a potential third wave that prompted Johnson this week to delay a planned full lifting of virus restrictions.

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