Caprice hails vindication on March 2020 Covid call for tougher borders

Caprice slams ‘experts’ who ridiculed her call for tougher border controls at start of Covid crisis – after Dominic Cummings admitted she was right and Whitehall fears over ‘racism’ blocked action

Caprice Bourret hailed her vindication today after a bizarre twist at the Covid inquiry saw Dominic Cummings admit the government should have listened to her call for tougher borders.

The 90s pin-up welcomed the former No10 aide’s recognition that her suggestion of restricting travel and containing the emerging virus had been ‘correct’.

Mr Cummings told the official probe earlier this week that there was a feeling in Whitehall that such action would be seen as ‘racist’. 

Writing for the House magazine, Caprice said she was ‘shut down’ and suffered ‘widespread mockery’ for expressing the views on TV on March 16, 2020.  

‘People up and down the country ridiculed me for daring to offer my opinion on a global health crisis,’ the model wrote.

‘Everyone tried to discredit my stance. I faced relentless trolling on social media for months as my views were deemed outlandish and unrealistic.

Dominic Cummings told the official Covid inquiry earlier this week that there was a feeling in Whitehall that tough border controls would be seen as ‘racist’

‘It’s clear that in fact the TV ‘expert’ doctor was wrong and my predictions were correct – the very measures I advocated for back in 2020 – face masks, restricted travel, and containment – were implemented by the government and helped us contain the pandemic.

‘I believe that my background led many to underestimate me. However, I’ve always embraced this underestimation. It’s essential to remain resolute in the face of scepticism, and it’s a quality that has served me well throughout my career.’

In his evidence, Mr Cummings painted a grim picture of complacency about the virus in Whitehall, and argued that after it arrived in the UK there was a ‘fatalistic’ view that there was no point trying to stop the spread.

He said the initial advice had been that lockdown was both ‘impossible’ and ‘mad’, because it would just result in a worse second wave.

WhatsApps displayed at the hearing – many of them expletive-laden – showed the maverick aide warned Boris Johnson on March 12, 2020 that acting too slowly could turn the NHS into a ‘zombie apocalypse film’.

But he told the inquiry that ideally there would have been a drastic tightening of travel as soon as the virus was discovered, along with the ramping up of mass testing. That would have had a ‘much better outcome’, without the need for blanket restrictions. 

Mr Cummings suggested part of the reason such measures were not pursued was because it was seen as ‘racist’ to close borders – pointing to the example of Caprice being derided as an ‘idiot’. 

The former Dancing on Ice star championed face masks and travel restrictions on the Jeremy Vine show on March 16 2020. 

Mr Cummings said strict border controls on travel from China and the rapid expansion of testing as soon as the virus was identified could have had a ‘much better’ outcome than the national lockdown.

He said there was a ‘fatalistic’ approach within government which did not envisage attempting to create new systems to control the spread of coronavirus.

‘My view is that what ought to have happened is that as soon as the first reports came at the end of December, on roughly New Year’s Eve 2019, we should have immediately closed down flights to China, we should immediately have had a very, very hardcore system at the airports and borders and there should have been a whole massive testing infrastructure,’ he said.

That meant both scaling up the test and trace system but also finding the industrial capacity system to manufacture tens of millions of rapid tests.

The combination of ‘this country, for the first time ever, actually controlling its borders and taking it seriously’ with test and trace, rapid testing capacity, along with ‘human challenge’ vaccine trials, would have been a ‘much better approach’.

It would have been better ‘not just in terms of deaths, but also in terms of us being able to keep open the economy to a massively greater extent than we were able to’.

Mr Cummings agreed that without a scaled-up test and trace system, shutting the borders would not have sufficed in combating the spread of coronavirus.

But he said: ‘It’s half of the nub of the issue, but the other half of the nub is that if you regard the whole thing in a fatalistic way anyway – which DH (the Department of Health), the Cabinet Office and Sage did at the beginning – and you think that there is no effective alternative to herd immunity.

Caprice (pictured on the red carpet in 2020) said her background as a model meant she was routinely ‘underestimated’ 

The former Dancing on Ice star championed face masks and travel restrictions on the Jeremy Vine show on March 16 2020

‘If you say that, at an overall conceptual level, there’s either A: shape a curve towards herd immunity, or B: try to build your way out of the problem, the entire system in January, February, early March thought that the only plausible approach to this was to shape the curve of herd immunity.

‘No one thought it was really practical to build our way out of the problem.

‘The fundamental U-turn that we shifted to, was to try and build our way out of it instead of fatalistically accepting it.’

Pointing to Caprice’s questions of ‘why aren’t we closing the borders?’ he noted that ‘a lot of public health experts mocked her as if she was an idiot’.

‘That was the prevailing conventional wisdom from the public health system and the dismissal of Caprice was reflected in Number 10 by the public health system,’ he said.

‘Of course, if you’re going for a single wave herd immunity by September… then faffing around at the borders wasn’t regarded as relevant or coherent with such a strategy.’

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