Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reportedly said the government should “just let people die” during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of imposing a second national lockdown, according to an account on Monday of questions about how Britain is handling the crisis.
Patrick Vallance, who was the government’s chief scientific adviser during the COVID era, made notes in his diary of a meeting on October 25, 2020, involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sunak, who is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The diary entry shown in the investigation records how Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s top adviser during the pandemic, told Vallance what he said he heard in the meeting.
Vallance quotes Cummings in his diary: “Rishi (Sunak) thought that people should be left to die and that it was okay. “All this shows the absence of leadership.”
A Sunak spokesman said the prime minister would state his position when giving evidence on the question “rather than answering lightly”.
The inquiry examines the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has paralyzed many sectors of the economy and killed more than 220,000 people in Britain. The investigation will continue until the summer of 2026.
Senior government officials have repeatedly stated that they are not prepared for a pandemic, and a culture that is “toxic” and “sexist” has hampered the response to the health crisis.
The danger for Sunak is that the evidence from the inquiry will undermine his attempt to present himself as a reformer of Johnson’s troubled leadership, even though he is one of the most senior ministers in the government.