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17 Mar, 2021 14:56

UK’s ‘smoking ruin’ of a health department forced govt to take charge of Covid vaccine rollout, says PM’s ex-aide Cummings

UK’s ‘smoking ruin’ of a health department forced govt to take charge of Covid vaccine rollout, says PM’s ex-aide Cummings

The UK’s Department of Health was a “smoking ruin” with a dire record on procuring Covid-19 supplies, forcing Downing Street to take over the vaccine rollout, the PM Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings said on Wednesday.

Johnson’s former policy chief, who dramatically resigned in November, was giving evidence to the Science Committee as he claimed “horrific Whitehall bureaucracy” had hampered the UK government’s response to the pandemic.

“In spring 2020 you had a situation where the Department for Health was just a smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE [personal protective equipment] and all of that, you had serious problems with the funding bureaucracy for therapeutics on Covid,” he said.

Also on rt.com UK loses track of BILLIONS of pounds worth of crucial PPE, auditor says

He claimed the department suffered an “absolute total disaster” in terms of its health procurement, adding: “It’s why we had to take the vaccine process out of the Department for Health.”

The UK’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has seen almost 25 million people given their first dose and has been among the world’s quickest immunization programmes, alongside Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

By contrast, the UK government has faced serious criticism over other areas of its Covid-19 response, including in its procurement of PPE and other medical equipment.

At least £1 billion (US $1.39 billion) worth of gloves, gowns and masks has gone missing, with some of it now potentially expired, the UK’s Auditor General at the National Audit Office told a told a parliamentary committee last month.

Also on rt.com UK govt acted ‘unlawfully’ by not disclosing lucrative Covid-19 contracts for PPE in time for public scrutiny, High Court rules

A report in November by the Guardian also suggested that the UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock had given his friend, a pub landlord, a lucrative contract to supply vials for Covid-19 tests.

The High Court then found last month that Hancock had “acted unlawfully” by failing to publish contract award notices for pandemic-related procurement within the required time limits.

Cummings’ appearance on Wednesday was his first in public since last year, when he left office ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The former Downing Street aide, who was one of the chief architects of Brexit, also told the Science Committee that when Johnson became PM in 2019, he had asked Cummings to “help sort out the huge Brexit nightmare.”

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