Boris Johnson was ‘bamboozled’ by science and ‘clutching at straws’ as Covid swept UK, reveals Patrick Vallance
BORIS Johnson was “bamboozled” by Covid science and Matt Hancock regularly made things up, Britain’s former top scientist has said.
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the Government during the pandemic, told the Covid-19 Inquiry he struggled in dealings with top ministers.
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser during the pandemic, is giving evidence today at the Covid-19 Inquiry[/caption]
He said the science and data behind Covid and lockdowns had to be explained over and again to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson because he struggled to understand them.
And Sir Patrick said the “operational response” after the realisation that a UK lockdown was unavoidable should have been faster.
He said: “I think I’m right in saying that the Prime Minister at the time gave up science at 15.
“I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts and we did need to repeat them often.”
Notes from Sir Patrick’s diary, which was handed over to the inquiry, lay bare how frustrated he was at the time.
One note said Mr Johnson was “taken through the graphs but it was a real struggle to get him to understand them”.
Others said that he “struggled with the concept of doubling times” and “talking the PM through graphs is difficult… but it is all the same stuff he was shown six hours ago”.
Another added: “PM is clearly bamboozled.”
Sir Patrick said that Public Health England’s testing, tracking and tracing systems were too weak to stop Covid exploding in Britain.
He said it was clear that by the time the first lockdown had been suggested that it was already unavoidable because the virus was so widespread.
In another shot at ministers he accused Matt Hancock, Health Secretary at the time, of regularly saying things that were made-up or wrong.
Sir Patrick is not the first person to level this criticism at him after top civil servant Helen MacNamara said the ex-MP had “nuclear levels of confidence” and would insist things were fine when they were not.
Sir Patrick said: “I think he had a habit of saying things which he didn’t have a basis for.
“He would say them too enthusiastically too early, without the evidence to back them up, and then have to backtrack from them days later.
“I don’t know to what extent that was over-enthusiasm versus deliberate.
“I think a lot of it was over-enthusiasm.
“He definitely said things which surprised me because I knew that the evidence base wasn’t there.”
Asked if this meant he said things that weren’t true, Sir Patrick answered “yes”.