Sir Patrick Vallance reveals ‘brain dump’ private diaries as he appears before UK Covid-19 inquiry

20 November 2023, 11:37

Sir Patrick Vallance has said a journal he kept during the pandemic was a way to 'decompress'.
Sir Patrick Vallance has said a journal he kept during the pandemic was a way to 'decompress'. Picture: Covid Inquiry

By Jenny Medlicott

Diary entries written during the pandemic were a way to ‘maintain inner calm’ and ‘decompress at the end of the day’, Sir Patrick Vallance has told the Covid Inquiry.

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It comes after it emerged earlier in the inquiry that Sir Patrick, the government's former chief scientific adviser, had privately been writing a journal throughout the pandemic response.

In his opening witness statement on Monday, Sir Patrick told the inquiry that his diary entries were a way to “maintain some form of inner calm, protect my mental health and keep my family out of the pressures I faced”.

Sir Patrick has prepared a 200-page witness statement for Monday’s hearing.

Questioned by Andrew O’Connor KC, the former scientific adviser said he had “no intention” of ever publishing the entries.

“These were a way of decompressing at the end of the day,” he told the inquiry. “Often quite late in the evening”.

The notes were provided to the inquiry after a disclosure request - Sir Patrick provided the entries in full despite them containing “sensitive, personal” information.

“Some of it I look back and think 'well that seems like a sensible series of reflections over that period,” he continued. But some, however, he said contradict each other.

“Others I look back and I can see I might have written something one day and then two days later written something that said, 'actually I don't agree with myself on that', which may have been how somebody had behaved or somebody made an observation.

Read more: Lockdown rules were confusing and £10,000 fines disproportionate, Priti Patel tells Covid Inquiry

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Sir Patrick Vallance's pandemic diary entries will be read out at the inquiry on Monday.
Sir Patrick Vallance's pandemic diary entries will be read out at the inquiry on Monday. Picture: Alamy

"So they were very much instant thoughts."

Some 25 extracts have been read out to the inquiry so far.

Among them, Sir Patrick accuses officials of “cherry picking’ scientific advice and ministers of using scientists as “human shields”.

He also criticises Boris Johnson’s decision-making, branding him “all over the place” and criticising his “ridiculous flip-flopping”.

"The right wing press are culpable and we have a weak, indecisive PM," he wrote in October 2020.

Mr O’Connor asked Sir Patrick if he thinks his former role should be held by someone with a medical background, given the inevitability of another pandemic.

Sir Patrick said the role is not “set up primarily for pandemic preparedness, it is set up to provide science advise across Government”.

“The great crisis that all Governments face for the next many decades is the climate challenge, so it would be equally well-argued that you could have somebody who has that expertise,” he added.

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