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A senior government minister has rejected Dominic Cummings’ explosive claim that tens of thousands of people died unnecessarily during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying ministers were acting with the best information they had at the time when deciding on which measures to take.
Giving evidence to the Commons science and technology committee on Wednesday, the former senior aide to Boris Johnson said that “tens of thousands of people died who didn’t need to die” due to decisions the government made in response to the pandemic.
But when asked directly on Radio 4’s Today programme whether Cummings’ claim was false, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: “Yes, I think it is.”
He added that the government “did not have all of the facts at the time the decision was being taken” and stressed that “nobody could doubt that the prime minister was doing anything other than acting with the best of motives with the information and advice that was available to him”.
Jenrick also refused to say whether he viewed Cummings, whom he worked with in government, as a reliable source of information regarding the government’s handling of the pandemic. When asked whether Cummings was unreliable, Jenrick said: “I’m not going to get into making personal allegations against individuals. I don’t think that’s helpful.
“As a government minister, I should be focused on what’s next, how do we continue to respond to this pandemic. That’s what the public want us to do. They do not want us to be obsessing about individual personalities.”
Jenrick’s comment came as the health secretary, Matt Hancock, prepares to face MPs and the media to respond to claims that he lied to colleagues and should have been fired for his performance in the coronavirus pandemic.
Hancock did not comment on former No 10 aide’s claims ahead of his Commons appearance and the evening Downing Street press conference, saying he was “just off to drive forward the vaccine programme” as he left his London home.
Jenrick also added that the public inquiry being scheduled for 2022, rather than this year, was the right time for those who lost loved ones to seek answers and explanations.
He added that having a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic next year was the “right moment” to “consider these things in a calm and reflective manner with all of the evidence”.
Labour has called for a public inquiry to be held immediately due to fact that there may be some evidence to support Cummings’ claims of government failures.
Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labour party, said that Cumming’s testimony was “very serious”, and that her thoughts “are with the tens of thousands of families who are bereaved and feel that their loved ones died needlessly”.
“This is why we need that public inquiry and we need it immediately,” she said. “People need to know the answers to the questions, not just in terms of those that have lost loved ones, but also we need to learn the lessons.”
She also added that following Cummings’ claims, the main question Labour had for the health secretary was whether he lied to the prime minister about plans to test people in hospital before they were discharged to care homes, as well as what he had to say to the public about why vulnerable people were put as risk within care homes.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Minister rejects Dominic Cummings’ claims of ‘unnecessary’ Covid deaths | Coronavirus