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Dominic Cummings has shared an extraordinary photograph of a ‘Plan B’ for lockdown scribbled on a Downing Street whiteboard, showing that officials and ministers asked themselves “Who do we not save?” as Covid-19 threatened to overwhelm the NHS.
According to Mr Cummings, the plan was drawn up on the whiteboard in the Prime Minister’s Downing Street study on Friday, March 13, the same day that one of the UK's most senior civil servants marched into the PM's office and warned "there is no plan... we're absolutely f****d".
It was shown to Mr Johnson the next day, Mr Cummings said.
Mr Cummings said that on the evening of March 13 (when the whiteboard was filled in) it was realised that a meeting would need to be held with Mr Johnson to explain "we're going to have to ditch the whole official plan, we're heading for the biggest disaster this country has seen since 1914".
Lettering at the top right of the board shows who else was privy to the new plan, including the chief medical officer Chris Whitty, the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and Mark Sweeney, director-general of the Cabinet Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, as well as 'Dom' himself.
The picture reveals that Mr Cummings and his aides had come to the realisation that Plan A – to try and mitigate rather than suppress the spread of Covid-19 – would likely end in disaster.
“Our current ‘plan’ means 4,000 people per day dying at peak,” the whiteboard says.
The six-step plan B begins with the assumption that there will be no vaccine in 2020. As it happened, that was a pessimistic assumption as Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive the jab in Dec 8, 2020.
The second step warns that the Government “must avoid NHS collapse”. If the collapse is “non-linear”, the officials warned, and the NHS suddenly became overwhelmed with patients, then the death rate could be expected to rise from one per cent to two per cent.
The third assumption was simple. “To stop the NHS collapse, we will probably have to ‘lockdown’.”
In the fourth step, Mr Cummings and his fellow officials began to sketch out what the unprecedented lockdown might look like.
“Everyone stays at home (except critical infrastructure people). Pubs etc close.”
The officials then asked themselves how millions of older and vulnerable people would cope. “Who looks after the people who can’t survive alone?”
Social distancing rules were sketched out under the headings: “less contact, no contact, contact illegal”, while the plan noted a need for “crash programs, ventilators, testing”.
Point 5 begins to make the case for an aggressive lockdown compared to the mitigation strategy.
“What’s different between Plan A and B? Aggressive next week. Full lockdown before collapse. Which means 2 weeks before we catch up with Italy.”
According to a scribbled graph, doing nothing would lead to a vast first wave, far above a line marked “NHS broken”.
A second line marked “our plan” would lead to a shallower and longer wave, but still rising above NHS capacity.
A third line marked Plan B shows a series of smaller waves, each below the “NHS broken” line.
The scribbled plan also reveals the first mention of an NHS app, with a suggestion that it might include employee status, vulnerability and location, as well as “local NHS status”.