Sunak confirms that the British government followed “scientific advice” during the pandemic

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted on Monday that the government had followed the “advice of scientists” during the pandemic as he intervened in the official investigation into the coronavirus crisis.

leader Conservative PartyQuestioned on Monday by solicitor Hugo Keith as part of the formal inquiry chaired by former judge Heather Hallett – which is in the second of four phases – he began his appearance by apologizing “profoundly” to those who lost loved ones during the events. calamity.

But he pointed out that the government “acted immediately on the recommendations of SAGE – the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.” “I think that We follow the recommendations of scientists. He noted, “I agree that we were influenced by what they said the government should do and when it should do it.”

During his statement, the head of the national economy at the time denied that Boris Johnson’s government had acted during the crisis in a “dysfunctional” manner, as stated by other witnesses in this investigation.

Sunak pointed out that She did not work “directly” with Downing Street Nor with the Cabinet Office – which coordinates the work of ministries – but everything seemed “well” to him in his dealings with the then Prime Minister.

He also had to refer to an article published by the magazine Viewer Where it was suggested Sunak privately “lobbied” Boris Johnson to influence him In his administration, he noted that they were “neighbors and shared a garden” and were having private conversations about Covid-19.

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However, he explained that “in terms of decision-making, there were rigorous discussions and deliberations with other colleagues” and it was always done “within a formal structure.”

Defending his administration

Sunak also defended his controversial programme Eating out to help out (Eat Out to Help Out), which was implemented during the pandemic with the argument that without it, the hospitality sector would have suffered “severe consequences”.

he the first show He was asked, among other measures, about the aforementioned controversial initiative, which was implemented in the summer of 2020 after quarantine, which Encourage people to eat out in bars and restaurantsThis is done with the help of discounts to stimulate the economy.

It was then questioned whether it had contributed to an increase in Covid-19 cases in the UK.

Sunak indicated in his speech that this plan represents the “micro policy” within the country’s general economic reopening plan.

Lawyer Keith asked the former Minister of Economy why, given the risk of transmission of infection inherent in the initiative to gather individuals in closed places, Scientific advisors were not consulted And the Minister of Health.

“because Eating out to help out Sunak responded: “It was specifically designed in the context of the safe lifting of (so-called) NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) that had already been approved, as part of the May plan, which reopened indoor hospitality.”

The Conservative leader noted that there are already “a large number of other NPI measures in place, such as social distancing, Covid-19 safe guidelines, table service, and contactless ordering (…)”.

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When Keith showed him an email dated late June 2020, before the program’s official launch in August of the same year, his private secretary indicated that Scientific advisors warned of the risks involved in economic reopening measures And the possibility of an increase in the rate of transmission of the virus, Sunak said he “didn’t remember reading” about that e-mail.

Sunak took over the economy portfolio – previously held by Sajid Javid – in February 2020 and remained in this position until July 2022, before being appointed prime minister in October of that year following the resignation of Liz Truss.

The current Prime Minister’s statement is part of the investigation phase examining decisions taken during the crisis, and comes after Boris Johnson testified for two days last week.

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