The former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to comprehend the science behind the coronavirus pandemic, according to his chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance. In testimony before the UK’s public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, Vallance said he and others encountered repeated difficulties getting Johnson to understand the science.
“I think I’m right in saying that the prime minister gave up science at 15,” Vallance said. “I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts and we did need to repeat them — often.” According to extracts from his diary, Johnson was “bamboozled” by graphs and data and found it difficult to grasp statistics.
Vallance noted that Johnson’s struggles were not unique, as many leaders around Europe also had difficulty understanding the scientific evidence and advice during the pandemic’s early stages in 2020. However, he added that it was challenging at times to make sure that Johnson had understood what a particular graph or piece of data meant.
Despite these challenges, Vallance emphasized that there was no unique inability on Johnson’s part to grasp some of these concepts during the pandemic. The UK has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Europe, with more than 232,000 deaths recorded due to the virus. Boris Johnson is set to address the inquiry before Christmas after heavy pressure from bereaved families who have criticized him for his actions during the pandemic. The investigation is expected to take three years to complete.