On Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance, the top scientific adviser for the UK government during the Covid pandemic, provided testimony to the inquiry regarding the management of the outbreak. This is a summary of what we have discovered thus far.
Researchers concerned about the potential impact of ‘Eat out to help out’ program.
Vallance was inquired about the discount program for summer 2020, initiated by Rishi Sunak’s Treasury, which aimed to incentivize individuals to dine at restaurants and cafes. The question was whether any concerns were raised regarding this scheme.
He stated that the plan completely went against previous recommendations to limit interactions between households, which would have undoubtedly led to a rise in infections.
I was presented with written proof by Sunak, who stated that there were no concerns brought up during ministerial discussions about the scheme. These discussions included attendees such as Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.
Vallance stated that it was clear to anyone that this would lead to a higher risk of transmission, and he believes that ministers were aware of this.
The inquiry’s counsel, Andrew O’Connor KC, asked about Mr Sunak. In response, Vallance stated that he could not remember which meetings Mr Sunak attended, but he would be shocked if any minister was unaware of the risks associated with these openings.
Boris Johnson is not proficient in the fields of science and mathematics.
Vallance expressed that it was challenging to ensure that the former prime minister fully grasped important ideas related to Covid, such as the effectiveness of lockdowns in reducing infection rates.
According to Vallance, Boris Johnson’s last encounter with science was at 15 years old and he freely admits it was not his strong suit. Vallance also mentioned that Johnson had a tendency to feign misunderstanding in order to explore alternative possibilities.
According to entries in Vallance’s diary at the time, Johnson had difficulty comprehending certain graphs. One entry noted that the prime minister was “confused” by modeling, while another stated that Johnson would struggle to grasp concepts that were explained to him six hours prior.
This was a widespread problem, not just in the UK. During a conference call with international scientific advisors, Vallance remembered one individual mentioning that their leader struggled to comprehend exponential curves. This caused the entire group to erupt in laughter, as it was a common issue across all countries.
Vallance believed that Johnson struggled with making decisions.
During the hearing, transcripts from Vallance’s diary were presented, documenting discussions regarding a potential second lockdown in autumn 2020. These records did not paint a favorable picture of the former prime minister.
In a previous post, Vallance expressed disappointment with the UK’s “ineffective and hesitant” Prime Minister. When asked if this opinion still stands, Vallance attributed it to a moment of frustration but also acknowledged that Johnson has been heavily influenced by the media.
Johnson refused to implement a second lockdown.
Earlier this month, evidence emerged that Johnson expressed a preference for “letting the bodies pile high” rather than implementing a new lockdown.
According to Vallance’s journal entry dated October 25, 2020, Johnson proposed the idea of “letting it all rip” during a meeting about potential restrictions. He acknowledged that there may be more casualties, but stated “so be it” and that those who pass away have lived a good life. Johnson also reportedly said that the majority of individuals who die have already reached their allotted time.
Vallance was not particularly impressed by Matt Hancock’s actions.
When questioned about his faith in the words of Matt Hancock, who was the health secretary at the time, Vallance responded politely but firmly with a negative answer. He explained to the inquiry that he believed Hancock had a tendency to make claims without a solid foundation and would do so with excessive enthusiasm and without proper evidence, only to retract them days later.
“I am unsure if that was due to excessive enthusiasm or intentional. I believe much of it was due to excessive enthusiasm, but he did say things that caught me off guard because I knew there was not enough evidence to support them.”
The United Kingdom should have implemented a lockdown earlier.
Vallance stated that although Johnson initially declared a lockdown on March 23, 2020, he was already aware by the weekend of March 14-15 that intervention was necessary.
The data from the weekend indicated that there were significantly more cases than anticipated and the spread was much wider. It was also accelerating at a faster rate than expected. The speaker stated that it was evident that action should have been taken sooner in this situation.
Vallance stated that over the weekend, a decision was made to implement all necessary measures. It would have been wise to expedite the implementation process.
Vallance received a reprimand for advocating for a lockdown.
During the investigation, it was revealed that Chris Wormald, the current and continuing top government official in the health department, and a potential future cabinet secretary, was extremely angry when Vallance urged for immediate action during a ministerial meeting in March. Vallance stated that Mark Sedwill, the previous cabinet secretary, was also irritated.
Upon learning this information, Vallance inquired with Wormald for the reason behind it. Wormald explained that it was not the content itself, but rather the manner in which it was brought up during the meeting that concerned him. He felt that it should have gone through proper channels instead of being mentioned in a ministerial meeting. However, Vallance maintains that he believes it was necessary to bring it up at that moment.