The UK has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Europe, with over 232,000 people dying from the virus. A public inquiry into the pandemic is currently underway to investigate why this happened and what could have been done differently. Patrick Vallance, who served as Chief Scientific Advisor to Boris Johnson during his time as Prime Minister, has testified at the inquiry about his experiences working with Johnson.
Vallance revealed that he and others often struggled to get Johnson to understand complex scientific concepts. “I think I’m right in saying that the prime minister gave up science at 15,” he said. “I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts.” According to extracts from his diary that were relayed to the inquiry, Johnson was “bamboozled” by graphs and data and found it difficult to grasp statistics.
Vallance also noted that while Johnson’s struggles were not unique, many leaders around Europe had problems understanding scientific evidence and advice during the early stages of the pandemic. “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,” he said. However, it was hard work sometimes to ensure that Johnson understood what a particular graph or piece of data meant.
Johnson is due to address the inquiry before Christmas but has not yet given any formal testimony. The probe is expected to take three years to complete and will investigate all aspects of the UK’s response to