UK leadership candidate Sunak attacks COVID lockdown response


  • Former finance minister says disadvantages of lockdowns suppressed
  • Sunak says scientists have been given too much influence
  • PM candidate says government tried to scare the public

LONDON, Aug. 25 (Reuters) – Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates vying to become Britain’s next prime minister, criticized outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic , and said it had been a mistake to give “empowerment”. scientists and that the downsides of lockdowns were suppressed.

The ruling Conservative party elects a new leader after Johnson was forced to resign when dozens of ministers resigned in protest at a string of scandals and missteps. Party members vote to elect Sunak or Foreign Minister Liz Truss, who will take over next month.

Opinion polls show Sunak is behind in the race. Handling the pandemic has become a problem, with Truss this month saying she would never approve another lockdown and also claiming that as Commerce Secretary at the time, she was not involved in making key decisions about how to respond.

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Sunak said the government had “made a mistake to scare people” about the coronavirus. He said he was banned by officials in Johnson’s office from discussing the “trade-offs” of imposing coronavirus-related restrictions, such as the impact on missed doctor appointments and longer health care waiting lists in the state-run National Health Service.

“The script was to never acknowledge them,” he told Spectator magazine. “The script was, ‘oh there’s no compromise, because doing this for our health is good for the economy’.”

Sunak said scientists from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergency Situations, the group that helped respond to the outbreak, were given too much influence by ministers over decision-making, such as closing schools and daycare centers.

Sunak said that during the onset of the pandemic, when scientists were given scenarios about what would happen if the lockdowns were not imposed or extended, his requests for the underlying modeling were ignored.

Sunak said it is unfair to blame officials because ministers are elected to make decisions.

“If you give all these independent people power, you’re screwed,” he said.

Sunak himself was extremely popular at the start of the pandemic, as he, as then finance minister, launched a leave scheme that forced many people to remain on the payroll, even if they were unable to work due to the lockdown.


When asked why opinion polls showed that the public wanted the country to be locked, Sunak said: “We helped shape that: with the fear messages”.

Sunak said it was wrong for the government to publish posters showing patients on ventilators and claimed the cabinet was “very upset” when he delivered a speech in September 2020 urging people to “live without fear”.

Britain under Johnson was slower than most of its European counterparts to go into lockdown in early 2020. After suffering some of the highest death rates at the start of the pandemic, it later became one of the first major economies to reopen.

Asked about Sunak’s comments, a government spokesperson defended his track record on COVID and said the economy and children’s education were at the heart of the tough decisions made during the pandemic.

Sunak, who resigned from Johnson’s government last month, suggested schools could have remained open during the pandemic. He said at a rally that he was trying to voice his opposition to closing schools and said it “made him very emotional”.

“There was a great silence afterwards,” he said. “It was the first time anyone said it. I was so furious.”

Lockdown “could have been shorter” or could have been a “different” approach, he said.

A public inquiry into government preparedness, public health and economic response to the pandemic is expected to begin gathering evidence next year.

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill Editing by Kate Holton and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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