LONDON – Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s reported comments about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic have raised questions as the inquiry into Britain’s handling of the crisis unfolds. According to the inquiry, Sunak suggested that the government should “just let people die” rather than impose a second national lockdown. These remarks were detailed in a diary entry by Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser at the time, following a meeting involving Boris Johnson, then Prime Minister, and Sunak, who was the finance minister.
Vallance’s diary entry documented how Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior adviser during the pandemic, relayed to him what he said he heard at the meeting. The entry quoted Cummings as saying, “Rishi thinks just let people die and that’s okay. This all feels like a complete lack of leadership.”
As the inquiry examines the government’s response to the pandemic, it is aiming to shed light on the decision-making processes that led to widespread economic shutdowns and the deaths of over 220,000 people in Britain. The inquiry is expected to run until the summer of 2026, allowing for a comprehensive review of the government’s actions.
The scrutiny from the inquiry comes at a critical time, as Sunak seeks to distance himself from the chaotic leadership of Johnson. Despite attempts to portray himself as a change from the previous regime, evidence presented at the inquiry, including the labeling of Sunak as “Dr. Death” due to his policies during the pandemic, could undermine this effort.
Overall, the inquiry is vital in unraveling the decision-making dynamics within the government and understanding the complexities of crisis management. It provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of leadership during a time of unprecedented challenges. This examination will be crucial in informing future responses to public health crises.