Sir Patrick Vallance: Who is he and what did he say at the Covid-19 Inquiry?
He also described the "incredulity" at some of Johnson's statements in meetings.
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Sir Patrick Vallance gave evidence to the Covid Inquiry today (20 November) as the panel investigates failings in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and what lessons can be learned from it. Sir Patrick is a veteran of the medical industry, and during the pandemic kept a personal diary - which was used as evidence for the inquiry.
After studying medicine at St George's, University of London in 1978, Sir Patrick went on to a number of senior medical positons. After becoming a university professor himself he took a role at GlaxoSmithKline in 2006 as head of drug discovery. After 12 years he took a position in government as chief scientific adviser, leading the Government Office for Science. This meant he was the one giving scientific advice to the prime minister and cabinet when Covid hit.
One diary entry from 4 May 2020 read: "Late afternoon meeting with the PM on schools. My God, this is complicated. Models will not provide the answer. PM is clearly bamboozled." Sir Patrick said the issue of helping politicians understand the data was not unique to the UK.
“I would also say that the meeting that sticks in my mind was with fellow advisers from across Europe, when one of them - and I won’t say which country - declared that the leader of that country had enormous problems with exponential curves, and the telephone call burst into laughter, because it was true in every country,” he said. “So I do not think that there was necessarily a unique inability to grasp some of these concepts with the prime minister at the time, but it was hard work sometimes to try and make sure that he had understood what a particular graph or piece of data was saying.”
One entry from September 7 2020 added: “Chief constables have said current rules too complex and difficult to police. PM looking glum. Then suddenly - ‘Is the whole thing a mirage? The curves just follow a natural pattern despite what you do’. Incredulity in the room.
“The whole meeting carefully manages the PM (is it always like this?) and he eventually approves the measures - really just reinforcing and enforcing what we should be doing anyway.”