Professor Sir Chris Whitty takes the stand at the Covid inquiry today in a highly anticipated evidence session.
England’s chief medical officer was at the heart of decision-making during the pandemic, working closely with then prime minister Boris Johnson and others at the top of government.
During yesterday’s session, it emerged that Sir Patrick Vallance, the former government science adviser, privately referred to Sir Chris as a lockdown “delayer” as “palpable tension” emerged between the two over policy.
Sir Patrick made an entry in his own diary in February 2021 in which Sir Chris had spoken to him about the inquiry they knew was coming, and whether the lockdown in March 2020 had been imposed too late.
“He was a delayer of course,” Sir Patrick wrote.
Also during Monday’s session, it was claimed that Rishi Sunak thought the government should just “let people die” during the coronavirus pandemic, in one of he most explosive claims heard at the inquiry so far.
Giving evidence at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, Sir Patrick said he made a note of what former chief advisor Dominic Cummings told him Mr Sunak, then the chancellor, said during a meeting in October 2020.
Whitty: Friction between me and Vallance was oversold
Sir Chris Whitty has said Sir Jeremy Farrar “had a book to sell”, brushing off claims of a rift between himself and Sir Patrick Vallance, Archie Mitchell reports.
The chief medical officer told the Covid inquiry that Sir Jeremy’s claims, that there was “friction” between him and the former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick, “made it more exciting”.
“My own view was that the differences were extremely small,” Sir Chris said.
Sir Jeremy’s book, Spike: The Virus Vs. The People, described friction between advisers about when to impose lockdown restrictions in 2020.
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 10:39
Proffessor Sir Chris Whitty giving evidence
Professor Sir Chris Whitty is now giving evidence to the inquiry.
We’ll bring you updates throughout the session.
You can also watch it live on our YouTube channel:
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 10:22
ICYMI: Boris Johnson was ‘bamboozled’ by science during the pandemic, Patrick Vallance reveals
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 09:36
Whitty arrives at inquiry
Professor Sir Chris Whitty has arrived for his appearance in front of the inquiry later this morning.
England’s chief medical officer was seen entering Dorland House a little earlier, dressed in dark suit.
He will take the stand at 10am.
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 09:05
Full report: Rishi Sunak thought government should ‘let people die’, Covid inquiry told in bombshell claim
As we reported earlier, Rishi Sunak has been accused of saying the government should “let people die” during the Covid pandemic.
The accusation, made by former chief of staff Dominic Cummings, was documented in Sir Patrick Vallance’s diary. The former chief scientific adviser made the note following a “shambolic” meeting about Covid restrictions in October 2020.
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 08:53
Sir Patrick faced threats to his family and considered resigning
In a 241-page witness statement to the inquiry, published on Monday, Sir Patrick revealed that he received threats and abuse during the pandemic.
The former government science adviser told the inquiry he considered resigning and that he “certainly found the pressure” on himself and his family “difficult”.
“Like many others I received abuse and threats and I was concerned for the wellbeing and safety of my family,” he said. “At times those factors did lead me to question whether I should continue.
“I also found people breaking the lockdown rules very difficult and considered what I should do in response, but decided that I would help most by continuing with my job.”
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 08:38
Minister dodges questions on Sunak’s alleged ‘let people die’ comment
A government minister dodged questions about Rishi Sunak’s alleged “let people die” comment during the Covid pandemic.
Laura Trott, chief secretary to the Treasury, was asked about the accusation, made by Dominic Cummings and revealed in yesterday’s evidence, in an interview with Sky News this morning
Ms Trott said she was a backbencher at the time the alleged remark was made, adding: “What I saw during Covid was a government trying to save both lives and livelihoods”.
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 08:11
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the Covid inquiry.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, will give evidence today in a highly anticipated appearance.
He will take the stand from 10am, when we’ll have live updates.
Until then, we’ll bring you all the highlights from yesterday’s session with Sir Patrick Vallance, the former government science adviser.
Matt Mathers21 November 2023 07:41
Rishi Sunak to blame for deaths, Caroline Lucas claims
Prime minister Rishi Sunak is to blame for excessive deaths during the pandemic, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said.
“Confirmed by Sir Patrick Vallance at the Covid Inquiry today – Rishi Sunak’s grossly irresponsible Eat Out To Help Out scheme drove a second wave of Covid. He is to blame for the damage caused. He needs to be held accountable,” Ms Lucas wrote on X.
Alexander Butler21 November 2023 05:30
Covid ‘fed off inequality’, Vallance says
Sir Patrick Vallance said he was “aware” the pandemic and the measures required to tackle it would have an unequal impact.
He says he stands by his witness statement which says that the virus “fed off inequality and drove inequality”.
Pressed on whether this knowledge formed part of the advice given at senior decision-making levels, Vallance can’t recall exactly how early he drew attention to this.
But, he says he thinks it was “pretty early on” – and that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, did the same.
Alexander Butler21 November 2023 04:30