Sir Patrick Vallance ‘received telling off’ after arguing for lockdown

The Government’s chief scientific adviser claimed he received a “telling off” from other senior officials after calling for lockdown restrictions earlier in the pandemic.

In an email obtained by the BBC, Sir Patrick Vallance said he “argued stronger than anyone for action for lockdown”.

His message, sent in May, claimed this prompted a rebuke from chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and then cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

Professor Chris Whitty
Professor Chris Whitty (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

A full lockdown was introduced on March 23, but some scientists have since argued that more lives could have been saved if restrictions had been imposed earlier.

The Government has insisted there was “no delay” to lockdown, with its actions being “guided by the advice of world-renowned scientists”.

According to the minutes of a March 16 meeting of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), scientists said there was  “clear evidence to support additional social distancing measures be introduced as soon as possible”.

Government guidance for social distancing in the UK was published on the same day, with a full lockdown allowing people to leave their homes for only limited reasons introduced on March 23.

Sir Mark Sedwill
Sir Mark Sedwill (House of Commons/PA)

Sir Patrick’s email, obtained through a freedom of information request, does not say when the alleged “telling off” occurred.

According to the BBC, the email appears to be discussing a Sunday Times article from May which criticised delays in introducing the lockdown in March.

A Government spokesperson said: “As recorded in the Sage minutes there was no disagreement on the substance of the scientific advice to ministers.

“This is a new virus and at every stage we have been guided by the advice of world-renowned scientists.

“There was no delay to lockdown. Sage advised on March 16 that further measures should be introduced as soon as possible.

“Our response ensured the NHS was not overwhelmed even at the virus’s peak, so that everyone was always able to get the best possible care.”

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