Asked on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show about the claim herd immunity had been the original policy, Ms Patel replied: “Absolutely not.”
She added: “Our strategy was always about protecting public health, saving lives and protecting the NHS.”
That prompted Cummings to return to Twitter where he repeated his claim the government initially planned the virus to spread through the country to build herd immunity as “Plan A”.
He said herd immunity “was officially seen as UNAVOIDABLE” at one point and was “seen as easier to manage & less of a catastrophe”.
The Prime Minister’s former top adviser said the policy was only reversed in March last year after a warning it would lead to a “catastrophe”.
Mr Cummings, who is due to give evidence this week to MPs investigating the Government’s response to the pandemic, previously said there may have been no need for any lockdowns if the country had had the “right preparations and competent people in charge”.
Ms Patel was backed by Dr Jenny Harries, who was deputy chief medical officer for England at the time.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I can categorically say I have never been in any Government meeting where herd immunity was put forward at that point of the pandemic as a mechanism of control.”