Covid inquiry: Sunak accused of scathing 'four word statement' in row over lockdown

The Covid inquiry heard that Dominic Cummings suggested the then Chancellor also thought it was 'okay' to just let people die during the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid enquiry: Vallance questioned on diary entry about Sunak

Rishi Sunak said the Government should "just let people die" as arguments raged over a second lockdown, the COVID-19 Inquiry has been told.

Diary entries written by Sir Patrick Vallance were shown to the Inquiry on Monday (November 20) during an explosive day of testimony by the former chief scientific adviser.

Sir Patrick made a note in his diary on October 25, 2020, about a "shambolic" meeting with Boris Johnson in which the then prime minister argued for "letting it all rip" and the then chancellor agreeing, according to the then chief scientific adviser.

Dominic Cummings, who was at the time Mr Johnson’s most senior adviser, told the meeting: "Rishi says just let people die and that’s okay."

Sir Patrick said he did not personally hear Mr Sunak express such an opinion, but told the Inquiry: "That’s what Dominic Cummings said."

It represents the most serious accusation levelled at the current Prime Minister in the Inquiry to date.

Sir Patrick Vallance (left) and Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak thought it was 'okay' to let people die, according to Sir Patrick Vallance's diary (Image: Getty/AP)

An extract from the diary entry reads: "DC arguing we need to save lives - it is not democratically possible to follow another route...

"DC argued again (rightly) that a lockdown's coming and therefore do it sooner rather than later. PM concludes, 'Looks like we are in a really tough spot, a complete shambles. I really don't want to do another national lockdown'.

"PM told that if he wants to go down this route of letting go, 'you need to tell people - you need to tell them you are going to allow people to die'...

"Conclusion - beef up the tiers - consider a national lockdown - decide by when.

"DC says 'Rishi thinks just let people die and that's okay'. This all feels like a complete lack of leadership."

Boris Johnson pictured at a Downing Street briefing during the pandemic

Boris Johnson pictured at a Downing Street briefing during the pandemic (Image: Getty)
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Asked about the diary entry, Sir Patrick told the inquiry he was recording what must have been "quite a shambolic day".

The next day's entry shows Mr Johnson took a different view, describing the death toll from COVID-19 as "terrible".

The inquiry also heard Sir Patrick wrote that "we have a weak indecisive PM" and described the right-wing press as "culpable" in decision-making on Covid measures.

Sir Patrick described Cabinet ministers as being "meek as mice", accusing them of an "abrogation of responsibility" for not imposing recommended restrictions to curb the spread of Covid in the autumn of 2020.

In an entry in his personal notes dated October 11, 2020, the Government's former chief scientific adviser welcomed being dropped from a press conference in favour of Mr Sunak.

Dominic Cummings at the COVID-19 Inquiry

Dominic Cummings at the COVID-19 Inquiry (Image: Getty)

Sir Patrick said: "Good. They need to understand and own the decisions they're making ... being asked to approve the measures, knowing that it's not enough, gave the example that Bolton worked, but only because hospitality fully closed.

"This is a massive abrogation of responsibility."

He then references various Cabinet ministers at the time, with Grant Shapps and Ben Wallace described as having "got it" in backing tighter restrictions.

Sir Patrick later adds: "While waiting someone clearly not on mute - baby crying and then she starts singing 'the wheels on the bus' - somehow symbolic of the shambles."

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