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COVID Chaos: Conservative Government at War As Dominic Cummings Influences Scientific Advisory Group That Is “Lukewarm” on Mass Testing

Herd Immunity Supporter Dominic Cummings Sits on SAGE Meetings as Matt Hancock Is Offered as a Sacrificial Lamb

Boris Johnson’s chief advisor Dominic Cummings has been in meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the group that is leading government scientific policy on the coronavirus. Cummings sat in on said meetings as far back as February when the government initiated their policy of herd immunity.

Cummings name was listed amongst attendees in documents leaked to The Guardian, raising questions as to how much the Conservative government have skewered “independent scientific advice” in their own favour and exactly what qualifications Cummings, who holds a degree in Ancient and Modern History, has to sit on the SAGE meetings.

Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, has stated to The Guardian that there were no political appointments to the group during his time in the position. The comments were echoed by former Minister for the Cabinet Office Sir David Liddington.

‘I’m not aware of any minister or special adviser, certainly not in Theresa May’s time, ever having been involved in the scientific advisory panels.’

Sir David Liddington

Joined at the meetings by Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked with Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign, further questions have now been raised about Cummings role both within government and surrounding their response to the coronavirus crisis. Many are now asking to what extent Cummings is influencing policy, given the fact he is said to be one of the originators of the alarming herd immunity strategy.

The Sunday Times on March 22 reported that Cummings had stated that Britain’s best way forward was “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.”

Former World Health Organisation director Anthony Costello states that it was explicitly SAGE’s policy that the coronavirus be allowed to “pass-through” the British public to use Boris Johnson’s words.

“SAGE explicit policy was to allow 60% of us to become infected. Herd immunity would kick in, they said, without evidence, and they reassured us that the mortality rate would be no more than 1% i.e potentially up to a staggering 400,000 deaths.”

Anthony Costello

Costello charges that the decision to move away from herd immunity was not one that was taken over concern for the human toll, but rather concern at how bad the numbers would look when compared to Britain’s geopolitical rivals in Asia.

“Within three days they backtracked, ostensibly because modellers said the NHS would be overwhelmed, but also because their projection on deaths was politically unacceptable, given that other countries like China and Korea had already suppressed their epidemics. But testing and contact tracing was not restarted”

Anthony Costello

The former WHO director has further exposed the split in the government over the direction of Britain’s COVID-19 response, with Matt Hancock said to be standing alone against Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance and other members of SAGE as he attempts to expand Britain’s testing.

“Matt Hancock says he is committed to expansion of testing and contact tracing at national scale. But CMO, deputy CMO, CSA and many on SAGE are lukewarm.”

Anthony Costello

Hancock has cast doubt on his own claims that Britain would be carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month, with just 23,000 being carried out on Wednesday.

“Unless the government is still intent on its herd immunity policy of flattening the curve and allowing the virus to spread, the best option is to mobilise communities and public health teams now for a community shield.”

Anthony Costello

The comments on Hancock and SAGE by Costello tie with similar comments made by Tim Shipman in last week’s Sunday Times, Shipman identifying a cabinet split where Michael Gove was angling for Britain to lift its lockdown while COVID-19 was “still hot”, meaning still a deadly threat to the British population.

“Hancock has been vocal in meetings that the priority has to be ensuring the NHS does not collapse. Gove backed him up in cabinet last week to show a united front from the quad but told their meeting on Wednesday that his position has changed. “I’ve come to the view that we need to run this hot”, Gove said. “I agree with Rishi.” Hancock replied: “I don’t agree.” Gove’s change of heart could shift the balance in favour of the hawks as Raab, who has remained neutral while he is deputising for Johnson, is also thought to be instinctively hawkish.”

Tim Shipman, The Sunday Times, April 19

With Hancock expected to take the fall for the government’s disastrous and criminal handling of the affair, it isn’t hard to wonder to what extent has the Health Secretary been deliberately sabotaged by those in his own government and amongst members of SAGE sympathetic to Cummings. It appears some are playing a game of politics at the highest level while over 44,000 members of the public are now believed to have died of COVID-19, a figure still being officially being manipulated much lower.

However, that is far from to say that Hancock is an innocent patsy. Spectacularly out of his depth, it has often appeared that rising to competence might be a challenge for a Health Secretary who has frequently been found lying to the public, ignoring historic warnings over the NHS readiness for a pandemic, supporting measures of austerity and acting in a manner generally unfitting of a Minister of State.

Anthony Costello believes that Britain is “in limbo” as the government remains split over a way forward, urging members of SAGE to speak out about what is going on at the highest level of government during the crisis.

“We’re in limbo. The SAGE is split and the CMO’s office is not behind the Minister. It’s a recipe for confusion and many further deaths. Are we trying to crush the virus or let it spread? We need to know. The SAGE members must speak out now.”

Anthony Costello

While Hancock should certainly resign, those resignations should begin with him and be allowed to pass through the entire British government.

While Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings should be amongst the first to go, those names must now include Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance who have not only allowed political pressure to influence the scientific process but in doing so have brought disrepute on the medical profession and scientific community. To what extent political gamesmanship has negatively influenced Britain’s response to the crisis must be a key aspect of a future independent investigation into the Conservative government’s actions against the British people.

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