UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under scrutiny after being quoted as prioritizing the economy over lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The revelation came during an inquiry into how Britain handled the crisis. According to Patrick Vallance, the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sunak allegedly stated that the government should just let people die rather than impose a second national lockdown.
Vallance’s diary entry from October 25, 2020, detailed a meeting involving then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sunak, who served as the finance minister. Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s senior adviser at the time, allegedly relayed to Vallance what he had heard during the meeting. Vallance quoted Cummings as saying, Rishi thinks just let people die and that’s okay. This all feels like a complete lack of leadership.
In response to these claims, a spokesman for Sunak stated that the prime minister would provide his position when he gives evidence to the inquiry. The ongoing inquiry aims to examine the government’s response to the pandemic, which resulted in the closure of large parts of the economy and the deaths of over 220,000 people in Britain. The inquiry is expected to continue until the summer of 2026.
Senior government officials have already acknowledged that the government was ill-prepared for the pandemic. They have also revealed that a toxic and macho culture within the government hindered the response to the health crisis.
These revelations pose a challenge for Sunak, who is attempting to portray himself as a departure from the chaotic leadership of Johnson. Despite being one of the most senior ministers in the previous government, Sunak aims to present himself as a transformative figure. However, previous evidence presented during the inquiry has shown that Sunak faced criticism for his Eat Out to Help Out policy in the summer of 2020. Health experts argued that the policy, which subsidized meals in pubs and restaurants, contributed to the spread of the virus.
The inquiry aims to shed light on the decision-making process and actions taken by the government during the pandemic. It seeks to provide a balanced view by considering various perspectives. Sunak’s appearance before the inquiry will be closely watched as he addresses these allegations and defends his role in the government’s pandemic response.
As the inquiry continues, the global community eagerly awaits the findings, which will undoubtedly carry significant implications for public health policy, government accountability, and leadership during times of crisis.