Dominic Cummings has said Boris Johnson initially considered COVID a "scare story" like swine flu.
Boris Johnson’s former adviser kicked off a morning of questioning by MPs over the lessons learnt from the pandemic by saying the government did not do as much as it could in the early months of 2020.
Explaining why Mr Johnson did not attend the COBRA meetings at the start of last year, he said: "The prime minister described it as the new swine flu, I certainly told him it wasn’t.
"The view from No 10 was if the PM chairs COBRA and says it’s just swine flu that would not help."
He added that the PM wanted to be injected with the coronavirus live on TV by chief medical officer Chris Whitty to show it was not harmful.
Mr Cummings also said the government failed the public when they needed them most and apologised to the families of those who died in the early days of the pandemic.
Taking some of the blame himself, he said: "The truth is, senior minister, officials, advisers like me fell disastrously short of standards required by the public.
"When the public needed us the most, the government failed. I want to apologise to all those families who had people that died.
"I did think oh my god, is this what people have been warning about all this time?
"However, PHE, WHO, CDC, organisations across the western world were not ringing the alarm bells about it then.
"In retrospect, it’s completely obvious that many institutions failed."