Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, struggled to come to grips with much of the science during the coronavirus pandemic, his chief scientific advisor said Monday.
In keenly awaited testimony to the country's public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick Vallance said he and others faced repeated problems getting Johnson to understand the science and that he changed his mind on numerous occasions.
«I think I'm right in saying that the prime minister gave up science at 15,» he 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 Vallace's mostly contemporaneous diary of the time were relayed to the inquiry.
In them, he wrote that Johnson was often «bamboozled» by the graphs and data and that watching him «get his head round stats is awful.»
During the pandemic, Vallance was a highly visible presence in the U.K. He and the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, regularly flanked Johnson at the daily COVID-19 press briefings given from the prime minister's offices on Downing Street.
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Vallance, who stepped down from his role as the British government's chief scientific adviser earlier this year, said Johnson's struggles were not unique and that many leaders had problems in understanding the scientific evidence and advice, especially in the first stages of the pandemic in early 2020.
He recalled a meeting of European scientific advisers where one country leader was said to have problems with exponential curves and «the telephone call burst into laughter, because it was true in every country.»
Johnson was hospitalized with the virus in April 2020 less than two weeks after he put the country into