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Dominic Cummings. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Dominic Cummings. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It should be blatantly obvious that someone who effectively advocates the culling of a vulnerable section of the population should not be allowed anywhere near public health policy, argues Lucy Nichols

Last week the Guardian revealed that the Prime Minister’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, was among the 23 people present at a Sage meeting on the 23rd of March (the day we went into lockdown). The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is supposed to remain secret and politically impartial, though this impartiality has clearly been breached with the presence of Cummings at meetings. Though Downing Street has downplayed the Cummings’ level of involvement by claiming he only ever listened in on the meetings, other members of Sage have revealed their worries surrounding his presence and contributions to the board.

In response to this scandal, Sir Patrick Vallance has now promised to publish a list of all the 100 or so people who have been present at the 28 meetings since January. This step is customary – Sage membership is always made public after the end of the crisis it was mobilised to deal with. Having a government advisor present at meetings is not customary; no political advisor has ever attended Sage before, in any capacity.

Dominic Cummings’ presence at these meetings – whether he was just listening in, as Downing Street claims, or was more involved – is unprecedented and it is unacceptable. This is not primarily because he is not a scientist or is clearly politically partial – all decisions taken about treatment across the world for Coronavirus reflect prevailing political judgements and priorities. The problem is the politics that Cummings represents. 

We mustn’t forget that at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis Cummings was associated with driving through the appalling ‘herd immunity’ strategy that has resulted in so many completely avoidable deaths, while the Sunday Times reported that he argued that the government’s response should be to ‘let old people die’.

Any semblance of faith we may have had in our government’s handling of coronavirus or that they were sincere about rejecting the murderous herd immunity approach has surely been undermined by Cummings’ presence at these meetings.

And herd immunity effectively remains government policy in all but name.  The state is failing us on multiple fronts: we still don’t have sufficient PPE, or enough test kits - despite repeatedly being promised both. The scandalous treatment of people in care homes where there is a chronic lack of testing and equipment for residents and staff and, in some places, the pressure to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ forms, has meant that they are estimated to have contributed to half of the overall deaths from Coronavirus. Up until now, those figures have not been included in the government figures, providing a very misleading impression of the extent of the damage and neglect. 

Many workers have been left without incomes, and many of those still at work are risking their lives working in unsafe conditions.

And now we discover one of the leading proponents of ‘herd immunity’ has been present at crucial, scientific meetings (despite being neither crucial nor a scientist). Dominic Cummings should be banned from all future meetings with immediate effect and we must demand to know why he was even allowed to attend them in the first place.

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