In London, the former British prime minister, Boris Johnson, struggled to understand the science behind the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance. Vallance testified before the country’s public inquiry into the pandemic on Monday and spoke about repeated problems getting Johnson to grasp scientific concepts.
Vallance stated that he believed Johnson gave up on science at age 15 and struggled with the concepts of the pandemic. He said that he and others had to repeatedly explain these concepts to him, often with little success. Vallance also shared extracts from Johnson’s diary that showed that he was “bamboozled” by graphs and data, making it difficult for him to understand statistics.
According to Vallance, Johnson’s struggles were not unique among leaders in Europe during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. However, he acknowledged that it was challenging at times to ensure that Johnson understood what a particular graph or piece of data was saying. Despite this challenge, Vallance believes that there was no unique inability for Johnson to grasp some of these concepts during his time as prime minister.
The UK has recorded over 232,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, one of the highest death tolls in Europe. Boris Johnson is due to address the public inquiry before Christmas after being forced to resign as prime minister following allegations of rule-breaking parties at his Downing Street residence during the pandemic. The investigation led by retired Judge Heather Hallett is expected to take three years to complete. Families who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 have been pushing for a public inquiry into Johnson’s actions since late 2021.