Boris Johnson denied the Covid pandemic would overwhelm the NHS and wanted to let the virus “wash through the country”, Dominic Cummings has told the BBC in a special interview.
The Prime Minister’s former chief advisor sat down with political editor Laura Kuenssberg to talk exclusively about his crucial role in Downing Street during the pandemic, his relationship with Mr Johnson and the part he played in Brexit.
In the interview, which is the first time Cummings has given a one-on-one talk for TV during his political career, he claimed Mr Johnson was reluctant to trigger a lockdown last autumn to save elderly people in their 80s.
So, what has Dominic Cummings said, when does the interview air and how can you watch it?
Here’s what you need to know.
What has Dominic Cummings said in BBC interview?
Dominic Cummings: The Interview sees Kuenssberg quiz the PM’s former aide on his time in government, which began on 24th July 2019 and ended on 13th November 2020 following his dramatic resignation.
He has claimed Mr Johnson was not prepared to tighten Covid restrictions in England last year because he believed people dying from the virus were “essentially all over 80”.
Cummings also told Kuenssberg that the Prime Minister sent him a message saying: "I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff."
And he said Mr Johnson had been set on protecting the economy, wanting to let the virus spread through the population instead of locking down.
In a WhatsApp conversation with aides in mid October, seen by the BBC, the Prime Minister appears to write: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent) and of those virtually all survive.
“And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.”
Mr Johnson also appears to text aides: “There are max 3 m in this country aged over 80” and says “it shows we don’t go for nationwide lockdown”.
And Cummings said in the interview that he had to stop the Tory leader from going to see the Queen, then aged 93, for face-to-face meetings, at a time when people in Number 10 were already becoming ill with Covid.
Cummings told the BBC: “I said, what are you doing, and he said, I’m going to see the Queen and I said, what on earth are you talking about, of course you can’t go and see the Queen. He said, ah, that’s what I do every Wednesday, sod this, I’m gonna go and see her.”
Downing Street has denied this claim, while Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
Cummings, who faced widespread public criticism when he travelled to Durham with his family during the national lockdown, went on to claim Mr Johnson had repeatedly ignored the advice of his chief scientific and medical advisers during the pandemic.
“When you get to the week of around about 15 to 19 September, by that point the data was clear about what was happening and Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty came to Downing Street and said erm, it’s clear where this is going, we think that you should consider hitting it hard and early … the prime minister said no, no, no, no, no, I’m not doing it.”
The Prime Minister also referred to the Daily Telegraph, for which he had previously written a column, as “my real boss”, Cummings said, and was extremely concerned about the reaction of parts of the media and the Conservative party when it came to increasing restrictions.
In response, Downing Street said Mr Johnson had taken the "necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice" throughout the Covid crisis.
The spokesperson added: “The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination rollout in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
“The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.”
Cummings, who has launched multiple attacks on the Prime Minister after leaving Downing Street, including at a seven-hour committee meeting with MPs, was repeatedly challenged by Kuenssberg to back up his version of events.
He said most of what he claimed would be corroborated if there was a public inquiry.
When is the Dominic Cummings interview on BBC?
The interview between Cummings and Kuenssberg will air on BBC Two at 7pm on Tuesday 20th July.
It will last an hour, with the programme ending at 8pm.
How can I watch Dominic Cummings: The Interview?
You can watch the exclusive talk live on BBC Two, or alternatively it will also be available to stream on BBC iPlayer on Tuesday if you’re unable to tune in when it’s broadcast.