Covid: Dominic Cummings to be quizzed by MPs on pandemic handlingon May 26, 2021 at 12:01 am

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A joint committee of MPs will question the prime minister’s former adviser on lessons to be learnt.

Dominic Cummings

The prime minister’s former aide, Dominic Cummings, will be questioned by MPs at a joint meeting of Parliament’s health and science committees on Wednesday.

Mr Cummings – who has been increasingly critical of the government in recent months – will be asked about ministers’ handling of the pandemic.

He says “secrecy” had “contributed greatly to the catastrophe”.

Downing Street says it is getting on with the “huge task” of recovery.

The joint session of the health and social care and the science and technology select committees is part of an ongoing inquiry into “lessons learnt” about coronavirus.

Mr Cummings – who gave evidence to one committee in March – will be grilled by MPs at 09:30 BST for around four hours.

Questions are expected to cover a range of topics including decision-making in the early months, the timings of lockdowns and other restrictions and the procurement processes.

It is likely that Mr Cummings will also face questions about his trip to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown in 2020 when he said he said he wanted to check his eyesight before driving back to London.

Mr Cummings left his role in Downing Street at the end of last year following an internal power struggle.

He has publicly criticised colleagues in government, including the prime minister, and the civil service on several occasions since his departure.

Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson

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He has been increasingly outspoken on Twitter and in his blog about what he sees as the prime minister’s failure to respond quickly enough to the resurging virus last September.

Last week he tweeted the government’s performance had been “part disaster, part non-existent” and he called for more scrutiny of policy to ensure the Indian variant is dealt with.

And in March, he described the department of health as a “smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE” at the start of the pandemic.

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Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

Dominic Cummings was in the room when decisions about lives and deaths were made during the Covid emergency.

He’s made no secret of his frustration now, at the speed of decision-making when the virus had arrived in the UK, blasting the level of preparations and the government’s original plan.

The former adviser’s real fire today is expected to be turned on the prime minister’s attitude to bringing back restrictions in September when Covid was again taking hold, but No 10 did not act until later on.

It is understood he will share his belief that the failure to toughen the rules led to a much bigger outbreak of the disease.

And he will suggest that was Boris Johnson’s terrible mistake because the government by then had a much better understanding of the virus, could have predicted what would happen and could have prevented much of it.

Yet Mr Cummings cannot extricate himself from what went wrong.

Few others had more influence over the decisions that were made.

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More than 127,000 people diagnosed with coronavirus have died in the UK since the start of the pandemic, but 72% of the adult population has had one vaccine jab and 44% have had two doses.

According to the government’s “roadmap”, the remaining restrictions on social contact in England are set to end on 21 June.

The government says it was always guided by the “best scientific data”.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “There is a huge task for this government to get on with.

“We are entirely focused on recovering from the pandemic, moving through the roadmap and distributing vaccines while delivering on the public’s priorities.

“Throughout this pandemic, the government’s priority has been to save lives, protect the NHS and support people’s jobs and livelihoods across the United Kingdom.”

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