Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s former chief scientific adviser, has revealed that scientists were not aware of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme until it was announced. The scheme was introduced in summer 2020 by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak to boost the hospitality industry by offering diners a discount in cafes and restaurants. Sir Patrick told the Covid inquiry that it would have been “obvious” the policy would lead to an increase in transmission risk.

He also said the first lockdown in March 2020 was imposed about a week too late and criticised the “lack of leadership” in the run-up to the second national lockdown in autumn 2020. Sir Patrick was questioned for around five hours on Monday about decisions taken in and around Downing Street during the pandemic.

In his diary, which was read out during the inquiry, Sir Patrick also criticised some of the Treasury’s input into pandemic decision-making. He described some economic predictions as being based on “no evidence, no transparency, pure dogma and wrong throughout,” and said there was an “imbalance” between the transparency of economic and scientific advice. He said advisers sometimes had to “work doubly hard to make sure that the science evidence and advice was being properly heard.”

Sir Patrick said he had sometimes disagreed with the UK’s chief medical adviser, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, about whether to introduce restrictions, but acknowledged that “sometimes [Sir Chris] was right.” He also said former Health Secretary Matt Hancock had a habit of saying things that he “didn’t have a basis for” and would have to backtrack on them days later.

Sir Patrick’s testimony came as the UK recorded its highest daily number of Covid deaths since 19 March, with 230 fatalities reported. The number of new cases in the country also rose by nearly 45,000. Meanwhile, health officials have warned of a “surge” in infections amongst young people, with the health secretary urging people to “be cautious.

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