British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s flagship program to reopen the British economy in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic “very likely” led to an increase in deaths, Patrick Vallance has told an official inquiry into the authorities’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The specialist expressed deep opposition to the “Eat Out to Help Out” program developed by the Sunak government, intended to encourage people to return to restaurants (summer 2020).
“It was obvious to everyone that this would increase risk.”
Rishi Sunak, who previously served as finance minister, became Britain’s prime minister late last year. So far, the investigation into the authorities’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the British Isles has focused on his predecessor, Boris Johnson.
Monday’s meeting revealed a short note to Prime Minister Sunak in which he said he had “no recollection of ministers or advisers expressing any concerns about the Eat Out to Help Out programme”. The head of the British government will appear before investigators in the next two weeks.
Patrick Vallance, who as a scientist advised the British government during the COVID-19 pandemic, said neither he nor the government’s advisory board were informed about the program until it was announced. They were also not asked for their opinion on the associated risk of spreading the virus.
“It was obvious to everyone that this would inevitably increase the risk of transmission and I think it was obvious to ministers,” Vallance told investigators.
Asked whether the program had increased the number of Britons who had died from the virus, Vallance said it was “highly likely that this had happened”.
“There will be more victims, but so be it”
This was not the only accusation made against Sunak. During the investigators’ meeting, other statements by Vallance were also revealed.
Tolga Akmen / various sources / AFP / AFP-
Former UK Government Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance
He accused the British Finance Department of “pure dogmatism”. According to him, the authorities were to strive in October 2021 to lift the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, although they had no scientific evidence of the validity of such action.
In another recently published diary extract, Vallance referred to a meeting that took place between ministers, advisers and Boris Johnson in October 2020 to consider whether further restrictions should be introduced in the UK.
According to the scientist’s testimony, Johnson – who will be questioned over the next few weeks – argued for “letting the virus spread.” He allegedly said that without new restrictions “there will be more victims, but so be it – they had a good life.”
The Prime Minister is to testify
In the same Vallance journal entry he quoted Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings as saying that “Rishi Sunak thinks you can just let people die and that’s fine.”
However, when pressed about the post, Vallance told investigators he had not heard Sunak actually say that.
Authorities in London refused to respond to the allegations made at the investigators’ meeting on Monday. A British government spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister is expected to give evidence to investigators at a time of their choosing. Then he will present his position.