20 Nov 2023, 22:37

Boris Johnson 'bamboozled' by Covid data, inquiry hears 

LONDON, Nov 20, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Boris Johnson was "bamboozled" by data 
during the Covid-19 pandemic, a public inquiry into his government's response 
to the global health crisis heard on Monday.

Former chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said Johnson, who was prime 
minister at the time, sometimes struggled to retain scientific information.

In one entry from May 4, 2020 recalling a meeting with Johnson about schools, 
Vallance wrote: "My God, this is complicated. Models will not provide the 
answer. PM is clearly bamboozled."

Another, written in the same month, said: "PM asking whether we've overdone 
it on the lethality of this disease. He swings between optimism pessimism, 
and then this."

Vallance wrote in June that watching Johnson get his head round stats was 
hard work. "He finds relative and absolute risk almost impossible to 
understand," he said.

Another notebook entry from Vallance described Johnson as "distressed" at 
seeing attendees in face masks and socially distanced at a Battle of Britain 
memorial service in September that year.

Vallance said Johnson, who has been criticised at the inquiry by a string of 
former senior advisers, described the scene as "mad and spooky, we have got 
to end it".

"Starts challenging numbers and questioning whether they really translate 
into deaths. Says it is not exponential etc etc," he added, referring to 

Describing the leader's attitude towards the spread of the virus, Vallance 
wrote: "Looked broken -- head in hands a lot. 'Is it because of the great 
libertarian nation we are that it spreads so much'.

"'Maybe we are licked as a species'... 'We are too shit to get our act 

Vallance also recounted how the then finance minister Rishi Sunak was 
overheard in a meeting in July 2020 saying the government should handle its 
scientific advisers rather than Covid-19.

At the time, plans were being made to reopen the country after the first 
national lockdown.

Other notes from Vallance written in June 2020 claimed ministers "hadn't 
really read or taken the time to understand the science advice" when they 
wanted to axe the two-metre social distancing rule.

"No 10 (Downing Street) pushing hard on releasing measures -- including clubs 
and bars. They are pushing hard and want the science altered," he wrote.

"We need to hold onto our hats. There will likely be a second peak," he 

The inquiry, chaired by a retired senior judge, is to interview Johnson and 
Sunak, who is now prime minister, later this year.

Johnson's time as prime minister was ended after a string of scandals, 
including lockdown-breaking parties held at Downing Street.


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