Government adviser says 'more people will die' because of Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings

The prime minister's senior aide Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home on Monday morning. (PA)

More people will die from COVID-19 because of Boris Johnson’s defence of Dominic Cummings, a government adviser has warned.

Professor Stephen Reicher said there will be more coronavirus deaths because of the “undermining” of lockdown rules.

On Sunday, the prime minister defended his senior aide even though Cummings made a 260-mile trip from London to Durham during the restrictions, apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son.

Johnson said Cummings had “acted responsibly and with integrity” when relocating over childcare concerns, in the face of calls for his resignation and heckling from his own neighbours.

Cummings faces two further claims of lockdown breaches from the Guardian and Daily Mirror newspapers.

Prof Reicher is a social psychologist on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) – a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that is advising ministers through the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the “debacle” over Dominic Cummings’s actions – and Johnson’s response – had "fatally undermined" efforts to fight coronavirus.

”The reason why people observed lockdown was not for themselves, it wasn't because they were personally at risk, they did it for the community, they did it because of a sense of 'we're all in this together’,” said Prof Reicher.

"If you give the impression there's one rule for them and one rule for us you fatally undermine that sense of 'we're all in this together' and you undermine adherence to the forms of behaviour which have got us through this crisis.

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"The real issue here is that because of these actions, because of undermining trust in the government, because of undermining adherence to the rules that we all need to follow, people are going to die.

"More people are going to die."

According to the government, there have been more than 36,000 deaths in UK hospitals, but the overall toll including those in care homes is thought to be more than 44,000.

The UK’s death toll is second only to that in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Professor Stephen Reicher warned more people will die because of the fallout over Dominic Cummings (ITV)

On Sunday, Prof Reicher said Johnson had “trashed” the advice of scientists by backing Cummings.

He wrote on Twitter: “I can say that in a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control COVID-19.”

He added: “Be open and honest, we said. Trashed. Respect the public, we said. Trashed.

“Ensure equity, so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed. Be consistent we said. Trashed. Make clear 'we are all in it together'. Trashed.

“It is very hard to provide scientific advice to a government which doesn't want to listen to science.”

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