Amid the ongoing public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, it has been revealed that Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, struggled to grasp much of the science surrounding the virus. His chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, testified that Johnson had difficulty understanding scientific concepts and frequently required explanations to comprehend them.
Vallance shared extracts from his diary with the inquiry, stating that Johnson was often “bamboozled” by graphs and data related to the pandemic. Describing the prime minister’s struggle to comprehend statistics as “awful,” Vallance shed light on the challenges faced while trying to help Johnson understand complex scientific concepts.
While serving as the British government’s chief scientific advisor, Vallance, along with Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, appeared alongside Johnson in daily COVID-19 press briefings. Vallance emphasized that Johnson’s difficulties were not unique and that many leaders worldwide had difficulties grasping scientific evidence and advice, particularly during the initial stages of the pandemic.
Reflecting on a meeting with advisers from various European countries, Vallance recalled one leader confessing their enormous problems with exponential curves, prompting laughter from the others as they all could relate to such struggles. This incident highlighted the shared difficulties of leaders in understanding these complex concepts.
Vallance further acknowledged that Johnson’s bout with COVID-19, which resulted in hospitalization, affected his ability to concentrate. However, after recuperation, there was no noticeable change in his grasp of the science and data. Notably, the UK has seen one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Europe, with over 232,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
The ongoing public inquiry, led by retired Judge Heather Hallett, aims to investigate the government’s response to the pandemic. Johnson, who resigned as prime minister in 2022 due to revelations of lockdown rule violations, is expected to testify before Christmas. The inquiry, likely to take three years to complete, was initiated following demands from bereaved families seeking answers about the government’s actions.
Q: Did Boris Johnson struggle to understand scientific concepts during the pandemic?
A: Yes, according to his chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, Johnson faced challenges in grasping scientific information.
Q: Were Johnson’s difficulties with science unique?
A: No, Vallance noted that many leaders worldwide had difficulties understanding scientific evidence and advice during the early stages of the pandemic.
Q: Did Johnson’s hospitalization with COVID-19 impact his ability to understand science?
A: While Johnson’s illness affected his concentration, there was no apparent change in his understanding of scientific concepts after his recovery.