British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he no longer believed "all this NHS overwhelmed stuff" as he resisted imposing England's second coronavirus lockdown, leaked messages suggest.
Dominic Cummings shared WhatsApps with the BBC as he alleged that Mr Johnson was reluctant to heighten restrictions because "the people who are dying are essentially all over 80".
In his first broadcast interview, the former chief adviser to Mr Johnson accused him of putting "his own political interests ahead of people's lives".
Mr Cummings has repeatedly accused Mr Johnson of being too slow in imposing the second lockdown, which came into force on 5 November.
The political adviser, who left Downing Street during a bitter row in November, shared a series of messages from 15 October that appear to be from Mr Johnson to aides.
"I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities. The median age is 82-81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4%) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate," they read.
"There are max 3m in this country aged over 80. It shows we don't go for nation wide lockdown."
Mr Cummings said in the interview that Mr Johnson's attitude at the time was a "weird mix of, er, partly it's all nonsense and lockdowns don't work anyway and partly well this is terrible but the people who are dying are essentially all over 80 and we can't kill the economy just because of people dying over 80".
He also alleged that Mr Johnson was too beholden to lockdown-opposing Tories and elements of the media which convinced him the first lockdown was a mistake.
A Number 10 spokeswoman responded: "Since the start of the pandemic, the prime minister has taken the necessary action to protect lives and livelihoods, guided by the best scientific advice.
"The government he leads has delivered the fastest vaccination roll-out in Europe, saved millions of jobs through the furlough scheme and prevented the NHS from being overwhelmed through three national lockdowns.
"The government is entirely focused on emerging cautiously from the pandemic and building back better."
Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's former aide, says anyone who is sure that Brexit is a good idea "has got a screw loose"— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 20, 2021
Speaking to @BBCLauraK he says he does believe "Brexit was a good thing"https://t.co/JKYyRZkByy pic.twitter.com/jx20xsA3Pi
Cummings looked to oust Johnson as PM
Mr Cummings said he was looking to oust Mr Johnson as prime minister only weeks after helping him secure an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.
The Vote Leave mastermind said he assisted the Conservative Party poll victory in December 2019 in order to settle the Brexit debate rather than due to any firm belief in his leadership.
Mr Cummings also laid bare the extent of the fractious relationship between former Vote Leave officials and Mr Johnson's now-wife, Carrie Johnson, only weeks after the landslide win.
"Before even mid-January we were having meetings in Number 10 saying it's clear that Carrie (Johnson) wants rid of all of us," said the former de facto chief of staff.
"At that point we were already saying by the summer either we'll all have gone from here or we'll be in the process of trying to get rid of him and get someone else in as Prime Minister."
Mr Cummings claimed that in 2019, ahead of the election, Mrs Johnson was happy to have Vote Leave officials working in Downing Street, but this later changed.
He said: "As soon as the election was won her view was, 'why should it be Dominic and the Vote Leave team?' Why shouldn't it be me that's pulling the strings?"'