Boris Johnson was prime minister when the pandemic began.
A senior government official warned ministers “I think we are going to kill thousands of people” at the start of the pandemic.
The terrifying remarks were revealed at the start of the latest phase of the Covid Inquiry.
It is looking at the government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The unnamed official visited No.10 in early March 2020 and said: “I think this country is headed for disaster. I think we are going to kill thousands of people”.
The quote was included a diary entry written by Patrick Vallance, who was the government’s chief scientific adviser at the time.
Vallance also criticised the “chaos” inside Boris Johnson’s Downing Street operation.
In a diary entry on September 19, he wrote: ”[Johnson] is all over the place and so completely inconsistent. You can see why it was so difficult to get agreement to lock down first time.”
The inquiry also heard that Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, texted a former Downing Street communications official claiming the prime minister “doesn’t think it [the virus] is a big deal. He doesn’t think anything can be done”.
On the same day, the World Health Organisation declared Europe as the centre of the pandemic.
But the UK didn’t go into lockdown for another 10 days.
Inquiry KC Hugo Keith said No.10 “cherry picked” and “rewrote” scientific advice on social distancing as they were preparing to lift lockdown restrictions in June 2020.
The inquiry also heard that Vallance believed himself, chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty and other scientists were being used as “human shields” by ministers to defend themselves from their own mistakes.
Keith concluded that WhatsApp messages between Johnson, Cummings and others like former health secretary Matt Hancock “portray a depressing picture of a toxic atmosphere” inside government during the pandemic.
He said the messages also showed “factional infighting and internecine attacks on colleagues”.