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A governmental inquiry into the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 response has revealed a series of text messages in which a top Cabinet minister reportedly warned that his colleagues were “f—ing up” the program.
Michael Gove, who served as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster during the pandemic, reportedly told then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings that the coronavirus was “worse than you think.”
“I don’t often kick-off. But we are f—ing up as a government and missing golden opportunities,” Gove allegedly told Cummings over the messaging platform WhatsApp.
The message continued, “I will carry on doing what I can but the whole situation is even worse than you think and action needs to be taken or we’ll regret it for a long time.”
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Michael Gove, formerly the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, stands outside Dorland House in London during a break in his evidence in the U.K. COVID-19 inquiry. (Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Cummings then allegedly replied to his fellow minister by calling the government’s response to the pandemic “a f—ing joke” and expressed his wish to flee the cities for the country.
“I’m tempted to take my family to the countryside and hold a press conference saying you’re on your own, the Cabinet Office and parliament have f—ed us all,” the message added. “People should be shot.”
The exchange of WhatsApp messages was said to have taken place weeks before the first national lockdown.
The messages came to light as part of a public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic – ordered by the government when Johnson was prime minister in 2021.
The communications were released by journalist Isabelle Oakeshott, who obtained them from MP Matthew Hancock while working together on a book about the lockdowns.
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People walk past a COVID-19 vaccination center in Brent, northwest London, during the coronavirus pandemic. (Ray Tang/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Under its terms of reference, the inquiry will “examine, consider and report on preparations and the response to the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”
During the inquiry, Gove expressed regret over the government’s response in more eloquent language.
“I believe that we were too slow to lock down initially, in March. I believe that we should have taken stricter measures before we eventually decided to do so late in October,” Gove said.
He continued, “I am also concerned that we did not pay enough attention to the impact, particularly on children and vulnerable children, of some of the measures that we took.”
Gove also asserted that the COVID-19 virus was likely a man-made pathogen – a claim sharply rebuked by world leaders at the height of the pandemic.
Michael Gove arrives at Westminster Abbey for a memorial service for former Chancellor Lord Lawson in London. (Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)
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“The nature of the fact the virus was novel[…] and this probably goes beyond the remit of the inquiry, but there is a significant body of judgment that believes the virus itself was man-made,” Gove said during his testimony at the inquiry.
COVID Inquiry lead consul Hugo Keith took issue with Gove’s assertion, saying, “It forms no part of the terms of reference of this inquiry Mr Gove, to address that somewhat divisive issue, so we are not going to go there.”
Britain recorded one of the world’s highest total number of deaths from COVID, with more than 175,000 reported by the time Johnson stood down in July last year.
However, the government also highlighted a rapid rollout of vaccines that helped the country emerge from lockdown for good in early 2022.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Timothy Nerozzi is a writer for Fox News Digital. You can follow him on Twitter @timothynerozzi and can email him at [email protected]