Rishi Sunak: Government gave scientists too much power during Covid

“We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did", ex-chancellor says

Rishi Sunak. Photo: Zuma/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

25 Aug 2022

The government gave independent scientists too much power to shape decision making during the pandemic, Tory leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak has said.

The former chancellor said the government should have acknowledged “trade-offs” such as the long-term impact on the economy, schools and the NHS when Britain went into lockdown in 2020.

In an interview with The Spectator, Sunak said a member of the Treasury had been involved in calls between members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which helped carry out modelling for the impact of the pandemic.

“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.”

Sunak, who was fined for breaking Covid rules made by the government he served, is understood to have been one of the voices in cabinet who was most concerned about the wider social and economic costs of repeated lockdowns.

However, academic research has suggested the former chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which was launched in the summer of 2020, may have driven up Covid infections by as much as 17 per cent.

Sunak is widely expected to lose the Tory leadership race to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, with the final result due to be announced on September 5.

While at the Treasury, he was responsible for bringing in the furlough scheme which cost taxpayers £70bn and helped protect more than a million jobs.

On public support for lockdowns, he told The Spectator: “We helped shape that: with the fear messaging, empowering the scientists and not talking about the trade-offs.”

This article appeared first on CSW sister publication Holyrood.

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