Boris Johnson told scientists he was in favour of a Swedish-style approach to the pandemic, rather than more lockdowns, in Autumn 2020, Professor Sunetra Gupta has said in her written evidence to the Covid Inquiry. The Telegraph has more.
Professor Gupta took part in a “round table” with Mr. Johnson, Rishi Sunak and several other scientists in September 2020 as the Government debated how to tackle Covid. At the time, restrictions had been eased.
Mr. Johnson had been keen to seek a range of views during the meeting on Zoom titled: “Should the Government intervene now and if so how?” and he asked Professor Gupta and Professor Carl Heneghan, both prominent critics of lockdown, for advice as well as Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist.
Unlike the rest of the world, Sweden took a different approach to the pandemic, only introducing social distancing, limited travel restrictions and bans on mass gatherings.
While Mr. Johnson later introduced the tiered system of local restrictions and the country endured two further lockdowns, Professor Gupta said that other than one scientist, Professor John Edmunds, everyone else in the meeting agreed about the benefits of the Swedish approach. Her comments are the first time a scientist in the meeting has publicly spoken about Mr Johnson’s support for the Swedish model.
Professor Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford’s Department of Biology, advocated a “focused protection” approach to protect the vulnerable, which she said was “the only humanitarian route out of the crisis” .
In her witness statement, seen by the Telegraph and submitted to the Inquiry, she said that Dame Angela McLean, now the Government’s chief scientific Adviser, who the Inquiry has heard mocked lockdown critics, was also in favour of a Swedish-style approach.
“Anders Tegnell gave a general outline of the ‘Swedish’ strategy, which corresponded to the opinions he had already expressed on multiple occasions in the press; Angela McLean expressed the opinion that we should be doing whatever Tegnell was doing,” her statement says.
“As the ‘Swedish’ strategy is effectively synonymous with focused protection of the vulnerable, it could be said that other than John Edmunds, all invitees were broadly in favour of proposals outlined by Tegnell. Boris Johnson interrogated each of us on our position, but there was no opportunity for a panel discussion.”
Mr. Johnson was later reported to have said in September 2020 that he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than introduce a second lockdown because of the economic impact. However, a second lockdown was introduced in November 2020 and a third in January 2021.
The disclosure comes as the inquiry prepares for a crucial week with Lee Cain, the former Director of Communications at Number 10 and Dominic Cummings, the former Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister, set to give evidence.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Nicola Sturgeon, along with 100 senior members of the Scottish Government, has deleted all her WhatsApp messages relating to Scotland’s pandemic response and won’t, therefore, be able to submit them to either the Scottish or the U.K. Covid inquiry. The Daily Record has more.
That’s not good news for Sturgeon, who’s already under investigation by Police Scotland in connection with the SNP’s finances. As Andrew Neil points out on X:
ON Aug 24 2021 then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked:
“Can you guarantee to the bereaved families that you will disclose emails, WhatsApps, private emails if you’ve been using them. Whatever. That nothing will be off limits in this inquiry?”
She replied: “I think if you understand statutory public inquiries you would know that even if I wasn’t prepared to give that assurance, which, for the avoidance of doubt, I am, then I wouldn’t have the ability. This will be a judge-led public inquiry.”
Stop Press 2: Humza Yousef has retained all his WhatsApp messages and will hand them over, thereby increasing the pressure on his predecessor. The Telegraph has more.