Rishi Sunak Says Scientists Were Too 'Empowered' Over Covid Lockdowns

Former chancellor says it was "wrong to scare people" during the pandemic.
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Rishi Sunak says he “wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off” of lockdowns during earlier phases of the pandemic, criticising government public health interventions and scientific advisors.

The Tory leadership contender said one of the government’s biggest mistakes was giving too much power to scientists and claimed the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) edited its minutes to hide dissenting opinions.

The former chancellor made the statements in an interview with the Spectator magazine.

“We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did,” he said.

“And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place. We’d probably have made different decisions on things like schools.”

Sunak added it had been “wrong to scare people” during the pandemic with images such as posters showing Covid patients on ventilators.

Sunak claimed Sage removed some opinions from its final minutes, but said a Treasury official would listen to the meetings and brief him on the omissions.

“The Sage people didn’t realise for a very long time that there was a Treasury person on all their calls,” he said.

But Lee Cain, who was No.10 communications director during the period of the pandemic, hit back.

“Huge admirer of Rishi Sunak but his position on lockdown is simply wrong,” he said.

“It would have been morally irresponsible of the govt not to implement lockdown in spring 2020 - the failure to do so would have killed tens-of-thousands of people who survived Covid.”

It comes as Sunak prepares to go head-to-head with Liz Truss once again in the penultimate hustings of the leadership race on Thursday.

Ahead of the Norwich hustings Truss put her focus squarely on the issues facing the East Anglian area, citing her plans of tax cuts, supply-side reform, better regulation and targeted investment zones.

Truss also pledged to tackle trade union strike action, such as that at the Port of Felixstowe this week.


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