‘It’s not my job to tell the Government things they want to hear’: Sir Patrick Vallance says science DOESN’T lead the way and only informs decisions as he bares all in first in-depth interview since Covid hit

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  • Sir Patrick Vallance said he was not aware of the ‘sugar coat’ for the government
  • He warned ministers to act sooner and harder with restrictions
  • Science is a ‘critical part’ of Covid decision making, but it does not progress, he said

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In a warning shot for restrictions coming back this winter, Sir Patrick said swift, tough and comprehensive action should be taken ‘at a time when it does not seem particularly worrisome’


Sir Patrick Vallance has said ministers should not have said they were ‘led by science’ during the COVID pandemic.

The Chief Scientific Adviser to No10 claimed that science does not make decisions nor does it ‘lead the way’, emphasizing that there were other complex matters that were considered essential to important decisions.

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He said number 10 should have stuck to the phrase ‘informed by science’, rather than ‘following the evidence’ because science doesn’t have the answer to all these things.

In his first in-depth interview since Britain was hit by the virus, he also said he doesn’t ‘sugar coat’ information for the government.

Sir Patrick, who became a household name during the pandemic due to his frequent appearances at daily televised press briefings in Downing St, said he viewed his work as ‘whether or not to give scientific advice to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet’. I see. To enable them to take decisions’.

And he revealed that his mantra has always been to act quickly while adopting lockdown restrictions to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.

In a cautionary shot to restrictions coming back this winter, Sir Patrick said swift, tough and comprehensive action must be taken ‘at a time when it does not seem particularly worrisome’.

Sir Patrick Vallance, pictured with the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser (centre), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left)

Sir Patrick Vallance, pictured with the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser (centre), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left)

Sir Patrick reveals Chris Whitty’s influence helped him through his worst days

Sir Patrick Vallance said his friendship with Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, helped him through the darkest days of the pandemic.

Asked in an interview with Radio 4 whether he ever felt tempted to resign from his role, he said that being able to speak to Professor Whitty was ‘very helpful’.

Sir Patrick said: ‘Well, I think we all felt there were times when there was a lot of pressure and you realized, “Am I doing a good job? Am I the right person in the job at the moment? Am I whether the evidence is clearly sufficient or not?”

‘And I think it’s a normal feeling, a normal reaction.

‘It’s very helpful to me personally that Chris and I were on this together, that we were able to talk to each other and reinforce each other.’

England’s top scientist said he was also concerned about whether his message was being understood.

He continued: ‘As a science advisor it is not enough to say that I went there and I told them.

‘It’s “Have I done enough?” and “Have I convinced myself that this is understood properly?”

‘And it’s really important and there were times and we all felt that way.’


Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether there was conflict when sharing information with the government, Sir Patrick said: ‘My job is not to sugar coat. It’s not my job to tell them what they want to hear…

‘It’s to make sure they understand what the science is saying at the time, what the uncertainties are, and try to make it as clear as possible.’

And discussing another surge of cases or the emergence of a related version, he said leaders have to go quicker, harder and stronger than they would like.

He said: ‘My mantra for a long time during this’ [pandemic] It has been “you have to go much quicker than you want in terms of interference, you have to go harder than you want, and you have to go much wider than you want geographically”.

‘And that’s sage advice. And that’s what I’ve been saying.

‘And I’ll go ahead and say it and the Prime Minister knows that’s what I think.

‘And he knows that’s what I would do in that situation.

‘You have to act at a time when it doesn’t seem particularly worrisome.’

Discussing whether it was a difficult time last September when the government eased restrictions, when experts were expecting a second wave in the winter, he said none of the decisions come easy from ministers and those Everyone has consequences.

He said: ‘We can look back and see what impact the lockdown has on health and wellbeing and so on. So this is not an easy task.

‘I think the biggest challenge for politicians around the world – and I know it from talking to colleagues in other countries – is the exponential curve.

‘When the numbers are low and they seem to be moving up just a little bit, it feels fine.

‘But you know an exponential curve, a doubling is a doubling and a doubling.

‘I think there’s a very interesting difference between being able to understand an exponential curve intellectually and actually being able to internalize it in some kind of intuitive way.

‘And I think you know there was a need to understand that as cases started doubling – that was a real warning sign.’

Sir Patrick criticizes Indy Sage for deviating in policy rather than science

Sir Patrick Vallance also criticized an independent panel of experts for choosing to deviate from policy rather than sticking to science.

Top scientists had formed a committee last May to advise the government on the pandemic.

Former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King founded the independent group called SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

Experts came together on concerns about a ‘lack of transparency’ from SAGE.

When asked about the group, Sir Patrick said, ‘calling it an independent SEZ was not really helpful’.

He continued: ‘David called me a few times about his desire to form a group and try to take things the other way.

‘And I told him I thought it was a good idea to set…


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