'PM was over-dependent on science in Covid-19 response,' says public health professor

12 May 2021, 14:55 | Updated: 12 May 2021, 16:46

By Fiona Jones

Public health expert Professor John Ashton accused the Prime Minister as having an "over-dependence on science" in his pandemic response and not focusing enough on "basic measures" like social distancing.

The professor made his comment after Boris Johnson confirmed there will be an independent public inquiry into the government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis, launching in 2022.

The Prime Minister told MPs in the Commons that there would be a full, public statutory inquiry with the power to make individuals give evidence under oath.

Professor John Ashton said to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty that the Government had an "over-dependence on science" in their pandemic response.

"Science has produced these vaccines, but being over-dependent on science rather than basic measures in important," he said.

Read more: Covid inquiry: What will it examine and when will it start?

He told Shelagh he worked with former cabinet minister Tessa Jowell during Blair's Government and she "really understood public health", as did Yvette Cooper: "But I can say that the others who came through as ministers of public health really didn't.

"It's very important that people in these senior positions as ministers should be grounded in the subject," he said.

He questioned why there was no historian or sociologist in the SAGE team, as knowing how people live their lives is "very important."

"It's not just boffins from back rooms, you have to work with the fabric of society and how people live their lives," he said, "look at all the outbreaks there have been in religious communities with their festivals and so on. You have to find ways to engage and build a trusting relationship and that's been missing so often throughout the last 12 months or so."

Mr Johnson has been under increasing pressure to announce an independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and sparked outage in April when he said the Government would be too busy to launch an urgent analysis of the response.

He committed to an inquiry in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, but in today’s announcement he put a specific time frame on it for the first time.