Rishi Sunak referred to as ‘Dr Death’ in WhatsApp messages seen by Covid inquiry

During the proceedings of the Covid inquiry today, a WhatsApp message was revealed which showed an exchange between Dame Angela McLean, chief governmental scientific adviser, and SAGE Covid-19 modeller Professor John Edmunds.

According to the image seen by the inquiry, the exchange took place on 20 September 2020 and, in it, Dame McLean referred to the then-chancellor Rishi Sunak as “Dr Death the chancellor”.

Lead counsel Hugo Keith asked Professor John Edmunds whether the comments were made in relation to the “eat out to help out” scheme, championed by Sunak, which ran in August 2020.

Professor Edmunds replied: “Honestly, it’s so long ago I wouldn’t know, but it could well be.”

Naomi Fulop, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, responded: “This inquiry has made clear that there was absolutely no consultation with the government’s scientific advisers on Eat Out to Help Out, that it contributed to the loss of thousands of lives, put unnecessary pressure on the NHS and plunged the country into a brutal second lockdown.

“It’s unbearable to think that if it wasn’t for Rishi Sunak’s reckless, unscientific and callous approach, my mum might still be with me.

“When our current chief scientific adviser has referred to our prime minister as ‘Dr Death’, how can any of us have faith in our government if another pandemic strikes

The latest batch of WhatsApp messages and emails shown at the Covid inquiry also seem to indicate that Dame McLean called Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, a “f***wit”. 

Meanwhile, opponents of lockdown measures were referred to as the “let it rip brigade” by then-chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.

Also at the Covid inquiry, the chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett told the probe she is yet to decide whether or not Sir Patrick Vallance’s diary entries should be published in full.

Baroness Hallett said  it would be “premature” to make a decision on the issue.

The diary kept by the former chief scientific adviser was effectively “a brain dump”, Sir Patrick’s lawyer said, and was written “at the end of immensely stressful days to protect his mental health”.

It was suggested instead that a new document be created containing the only “relevant extracts”.

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