On 22 March, a Sunday Times article suggested that prime minister Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings was callous about the possibility that many elderly people would die from the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. These deaths could have been a consequence of the ‘herd immunity’ approach he and others have promoted.
On 15 March, The Canary reported that Cummings was central to how the UK’s coronavirus strategy had been agreed. Now, further details of that role have emerged.
Let the elderly die?
A report in the Sunday Times referred to a meeting that reportedly took place on 12 March between members of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies). This was allegedly to discuss research carried out by Imperial College London and other institutions.
Unmitigated, the death number was 510,000… Mitigated we were told it was going to be 250,000. Once you see a figure of take no further action and a quarter of a million people die, the question you ask is, ‘What action?’
And at a meeting in early February it’s claimed Cummings said it was all about:
herd immunity, protect[ing] the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.
But Cummings wasn’t the only person allegedly promoting this controversial strategy
Cummings chaired a meeting on the virus with representatives of big tech companies. Also present at the meeting were the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (who backed the herd immunity strategy) and NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens.
Others played a role
The Sunday Times also reported how:
David Halpern of the Whitehall “nudge unit” put the phrase in the public domain. Two days later, Vallance repeated the idea on Radio 4.
A “minister” allegedly told Buzzfeed News that Cummings and Vallance:
were “close allies” and claimed the government had “bet” the future of the UK on advice from a very small group of scientists that for a long time differed from the wider international consensus, and other members of SAGE.
Behavioural scientists put their case too
This is the Nudge unit “behavioural scientists” talking on the record to @BBCMarkEaston about the plan for most population to get “herd immunity” – which I think means getting Coronavirus, while protecting the vulnerable – ie elderly via “cocooning”
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) March 12, 2020
behavioural science evidence that may have been used to justify this decision— though a lack of transparency from the government has made it hard to discern what the official policy is.
Reactions to Sunday Times article
Labour MP David Lammy called this information “sickening” if it is true:
This must be the last slogan Dominic Cummings gets to use to govern Britain. If what the Sunday Times reports is true, thousands will die because of his apathy and arrogance. Boris Johnson will have signed it off too. Sickening. pic.twitter.com/AoEXSdEw6s
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) March 22, 2020
Journalist Peter Jukes also spoke out:
So we were right. The lethal ‘herd immunity without vaccine’ strategy came from Dominic Cummings “protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.
There’s an audit trail now. I hope lawyers are watching. Herd Immunity without a vaccine is unheard of. https://t.co/jRWgzSNOqM
— Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) March 22, 2020
However, 10 Downing Street denies there was ever a policy to allow elderly people to die from coronavirus. According to the Guardian, a spokesperson said that the Sunday Times‘ accusation was:
a highly defamatory fabrication which was not put to No 10 by the Sunday Times before publication. The article also includes a series of apparent quotes from meetings which are invented.
It should also be noted that the Sunday Times article seems to portray Johnson as the ‘hero’ in this crisis.
Needless to say, if the accusations against those who promoted the ‘herd immunity’ approach are correct, then repercussions must surely follow.
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