UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had to be talked out of an in-person meeting with Britain’s elderly Queen Elizabeth II at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, his former adviser Dominic Cummings has claimed.
It is the latest in a series of explosive claims by Mr Cummings, who is now a bitter critic of the government that he left in a power struggle last year.
He said in a rare interview with the BBC that Mr Johnson had not thought through the risks of passing Covid-19 on to the monarch, then aged 93.
By the time of the alleged incident last March – which was denied by Downing Street – Mr Johnson had told the public to stop unnecessary contact with others and to work from home where possible.
According to Mr Cummings, the prime minister planned to press ahead with his weekly meeting with the Queen and said: “That’s what I do every Wednesday, I’m going to go and see her.”
“I said to him, there’s people in this office who are isolating, you might have coronavirus, I might have coronavirus,” Mr Cummings said.
He said he told Mr Johnson: “You can’t go and see the Queen. What if you go and see her and then give the Queen coronavirus? Obviously you can’t go.
“If you go, and you give her coronavirus, and she dies … you can’t do that, you can’t risk that, that’s completely insane.”
Asked to respond to Downing Street’s denial, Mr Cummings said: “I know it happened and other people who were there know it happened.”
Mr Johnson tested positive for the virus later in March and spent three nights in intensive care at a London hospital.
Having called off his weekly audiences with the Queen, he did not resume them until last month.
Mr Cummings was later embroiled in controversy when it emerged he had driven his family the length of England to isolate during the first lockdown.
He left his Downing Street role in November and has since gone public with claims of incompetence and lying at the top of the government.
In his BBC interview – which will be aired in full on Tuesday evening – he said Mr Johnson had sought to avoid a second lockdown last autumn because he believed “the people who are dying are essentially all over 80”.
“We can’t kill the economy just because of people dying over 80,” was how Mr Cummings described the prime minister’s attitude.
He suggested that Mr Johnson no longer believed there was a risk of the National Health Service being overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson did eventually order a second lockdown in England in November, and later a third in January.
Asked for evidence to support his claims, Mr Cummings said Mr Johnson had texted the comments to him and others.
Responding to the claims, Mr Johnson’s office said he had taken the necessary action and been guided by scientific advice.
“The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination roll-out in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns,” it said.
“The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better.”