Shropshire Star

Rishi Sunak was ‘not pleased’ at early prospect of London lockdown

Sir Patrick Vallance’s argument for tighter restrictions due to the early spread of Covid-19 in London was rejected by ministers.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry

Rishi Sunak was not “terribly pleased” with the prospect of imposing a lockdown in London during the early stages of the pandemic, Sir Patrick Vallance has told the Covid-19 Inquiry.

Giving evidence on Monday, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser discussed meetings with ministers during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.

Sir Patrick said emerging evidence of the scale of infections in London meant the capital “needed more” restrictions than other parts of the country.

But the idea was not welcomed by then chancellor Mr Sunak.

Sir Patrick added: “I made that point at the meeting.

“It was discussed and there was a very clear rejection of that proposal.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was said to be “not pleased” about a proposal to introduce a lockdown in London in the early stages of the pandemic (Leon Neal/PA)

“And certainly, I don’t think the chancellor looked terribly pleased at that moment.”

When asked why Mr Sunak was not pleased, Sir Patrick said: “Well, quite rightly, he’s concerned about the economy and London is very much the engine of the economy.”

Sir Patrick also told the inquiry he left the permanent secretary of the Department of Health and Social Care “incandescent with rage” for the way he suggested more stringent measures were needed to curb the spread of Covid-19 in mid-March 2020.

Sir Patrick said he had also upset other officials due to his approach to discussions with ministers, including permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, Chris Wormald.

He said he was “unambiguous” during a meeting on March 15 after information emerged that coronavirus “was far more widespread and far bigger and moving faster” than anticipated a couple of days earlier.

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The Government’s former chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance argued for early restrictions in London due to the rapid spread of Covid-19 (Adam Davy/PA)

“I got message back that Chris Wormald was incandescent with rage, as well as the cabinet secretary, about the fact that I’d said this during the meeting on the Sunday (March 15),” Sir Patrick said.

“I subsequently spoke to Chris Wormald and asked him why he thought that was something to be incandescent about.

“And he said it was the manner of raising it in the meeting rather than the substance that he was concerned about, and that I sort of thrown it into a ministerial meeting whereas it should have gone through more due process.

“But I stand by the fact that I think it was the right thing to say at the time.

“I was told that I hadn’t done things the right way and it was inappropriate for me to raise that.”

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