he U.K.’s new Chief Scientific Adviser pushed hard for lockdown during Covid, describing Rishi Sunak as “Dr. Death” for seeking to get the country back to normal with his Eat Out to Help Out scheme, it emerged Thursday at the Covid Inquiry. The Mail has more.
Dame Angela McLean, who this year succeeded Sir Patrick Vallance as No. 10’s Chief Scientific Adviser, sent the WhatsApp message to a fellow Government adviser in a crunch meeting with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then-Chancellor Mr. Sunak.
At the time of the September 2020 meeting, the Rule of Six was in place following Mr. Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and Mr. Johnson had confirmed that the U.K. was “now seeing a second wave coming in”.
Government advisers were urging Mr Johnson to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown but Mr. Sunak was concerned about the impact on the economy.
During the same meeting, Dame Angela, who was then Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Defence, also called one of the scientists arguing against a shutdown a “f***wit”.
Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the inquiry today that he attended the meeting on Sunday September 20th, along with officials including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Sunak and Sir Patrick.
Email exchanges between Sir Patrick and Professor Edmunds state that the meeting was so Mr. Johnson could hear a “range of views on the forward look” from the “let it rip brigade”.
Professor Edmunds told the inquiry that this referred to “vocal people who took the view that we shouldn’t have locked down in the first place and that we shouldn’t be considering that again”.
This included Oxford University professors Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan, and Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s leading epidemiologist, whose advice shaped the nation’s controversial decision to avoid a blanket lockdown.
The scientists were each given 15 minutes to argue a lockdown was unnecessary at that point, Professor Gupta later revealed.
In an email to Professor Edmunds, shown to the inquiry today, Sir Patrick said “we have tried to put together a balanced group across views and so I think what he needs is your view on future direction of the epidemic”.
The inquiry was shown WhatsApp exchanges between Professor Edmunds and Dame Angela during the meeting, in which she referred to “Dr. Death the Chancellor”.
Lead Counsel Hugo Keith KC asked Professor Edmunds: “Did you understand those were references to the eat out to help out campaign of which you’d spoken about?”