Boris Johnson was reluctant to tighten Covid restrictions as cases rose last autumn because he thought people dying from it were “essentially all over 80”, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
He also said the prime minister had messaged him to say: “I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff.”
Mr Johnson had wanted to let Covid “wash through the country” rather than destroy the economy, Mr Cummings said.
The claims came in an interview with BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
It is the first time Mr Cummings – Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser – has given a one-on-one TV interview during his career in politics.
In response, Downing Street said the prime minister had taken the “necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice” throughout the pandemic.
And the government had prevented the NHS “from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns”, a spokesperson added.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Cummings also said that, near the start of the pandemic last year, Mr Johnson had wanted to keep his weekly face-to-face meetings with the Queen going – but he had to warn his boss that she might die if she caught coronavirus.
And he defended his controversial decision to drive to his parents’ farm in County Durham after the first lockdown started, but admitted he had not “come clean” about all the reasons behind it, including “security concerns” around his family home in London.
This is the first major interview Mr Cummings has given, but he has answered MPs’ questions on the government’s response to Covid.
The claims made at that session were explosive, but he’s since been criticised for failing to provide the evidence to back up some of those assertions.