Sir Patrick Vallance reveals his family was threatened during Covid pandemic

20 November 2023, 12:09

Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before the Covid inquiry today
Sir Patrick Vallance appeared before the Covid inquiry today. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The government's former chief scientific adviser has revealed his family faced personal threats and abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Sir Patrick Vallance, in his statement to the Covid inquiry, said comments directed towards him and his family ‘crossed the line’ becoming ‘threatening and abusive.’

Sir Patrick, who is giving evidence to the inquiry today, said science advisers “faced significant public scrutiny throughout the pandemic response.

“This came from a number of sources, including by way of both social and traditional media. Some of that scrutiny and commentary was highly critical, and some crossed the line and became personal, threatening and abusive, including towards me and my family.”

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He also told the Covid inquiry he was concerned over the Government's "operational response" to limiting the spread of Covid-19 during the pandemic's early months.

Asked about discussions in February 2020 about measures to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, Sir Patrick said then-prime minister Boris Johnson had begun to consider lockdown options.

He said: "There was lots of evidence that there were things that needed to happen in order to achieve suppressing the curve.

"I'm not convinced that there was a very effective operational response to that."

He said that in January 2020 ‘extremely high’ deaths and infections were possible.

Earlier he told the Covid inquiry that during the pandemic he would make personal notes at the end of each day as a way of "decompressing" and protecting his mental health.

He said: "And they were some thoughts I'd had that day, and wrote down that day, as I say, in order to be clear the following day that I was going to concentrate on the following day, and they had no purpose other than that, and nobody including members of my family or anyone, had seen them or I had any intention of showing them to anybody.

Sir Patrick also told the inquiry that he still held some of the views today, but that he had he had changed his opinions on others.

He explained: "Some of it, I look back and think 'well, that seems like a sort of sensible series of reflections over that period'.

"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.

"So they were very much instant thoughts." He said he didn’t think his diary entries from the pandemic would "ever see the light of day".

The notes made by the former chief scientific adviser to the Government have been used by the inquiry as it looks at the work of key figures, including Cabinet ministers, ex-Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain and former cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill.

Giving evidence at Dorland House in London on Monday, Sir Patrick said: "I had no intention whatsoever of these ever seeing the light of day or me looking at them again, and sort of felt the world probably had enough of books and reflections of people's thoughts during Covid."

He admitted the diary was a way of protecting his own mental health from the daily stresses of his job, saying: "At the end of each day, often quite late in the evening, I would just spend a few minutes jotting down some thoughts from that day, and things and reflections, and did it as a way to get that, in a sense, out of the way so that I could concentrate on the following day.

"These were private thoughts. They were instant reflections from a day. And once they were written, I actually never looked at them again.

"They were put in a drawer and that was that. I certainly had no intention of doing anything else with them either."