The UK Covid-19 Inquiry has revealed heated exchanges among top scientists during a pivotal pandemic meeting in September 2020.
Dame Angela McLean, the first female Chief Scientific Adviser, referred to Rishi Sunak as “Dr. Death” in a private message to a colleague. This occurred during a discussion on the controversial Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Professor John Edmunds, a fellow Sage member, also received a colorful description in a WhatsApp message. He was called a “f—wit” by Dame Angela during the same meeting. These revelations shed light on the intense debates surrounding pandemic policies.
One of the key points of contention was the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which aimed to support the hospitality industry. Professor Edmunds expressed lingering anger towards Sunak for this initiative, criticizing it as ill-timed. The scheme came under fire for potentially contributing to the spread of the virus. Despite its controversy, it was part of the government’s efforts to stimulate economic activity during a challenging period.
The meeting, titled “Should the Government intervene now and if so how?”, brought together influential figures including Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. Professor Carl Heneghan, a prominent lockdown critic, was also present. Tensions were palpable as differing viewpoints clashed. This included sharp remarks from Dame Angela and Professor Edmunds, reflecting the intensity of the discussions.
The messages also unveiled concerns about the approach of some participants. Dame Angela hinted that Sir Patrick and Chris would steer Mr. Johnson away from certain perspectives. This underscores the influence that key advisors held in shaping policy decisions. These exchanges highlight the complexity and challenges faced by policymakers during the pandemic, where striking a balance between public health and economic stability was a constant struggle.
Ultimately, the revelations from this meeting provide a glimpse into the inner workings of pandemic decision-making. Emotions ran high, with scientists grappling over the best course of action. The exchanges surrounding the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and differing viewpoints on lockdown measures reveal the immense pressure and scrutiny faced by those in charge.