LONDON (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to understand the science behind the coronavirus pandemic, his chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance revealed Monday in testimony to a public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vallance, who served as Johnson’s chief scientific advisor during his time as prime minister, said that he and others faced repeated challenges getting Johnson to comprehend complex scientific concepts. “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.”
Extracts from Johnson’s diary were relayed to the inquiry, revealing that he was often “bamboozled” by graphs and data, and found it difficult to grasp statistical concepts. In one instance, Vallance said that Johnson was so confused by a particular graph that watching him try to understand it was “awful.”
However, Vallance emphasized that Johnson’s struggles with understanding science were not unique, and many other leaders around Europe also faced difficulties in grasping complex scientific evidence during the early stages of the pandemic. “I would also say that the meeting that sticks in my mind was with fellow advisers from across Europe,” Vallance said. “One of them declared that their leader had enormous problems with exponential curves, and there was laughter because it was true in every country.”
The UK has recorded more than 232,000 deaths related to COVID-19, making it one of the countries with the highest death tolls in Europe. Johnson is expected to testify before Christmas as part of an ongoing public inquiry into his actions during the pandemic. The probe is being led by retired Judge Heather Hallett and is expected to take three years to complete.