LONDON (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to understand the science behind the coronavirus pandemic, his chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance said Monday. Vallance, who testified at the country’s public inquiry into COVID-19, said he and others faced repeated difficulties getting Johnson to comprehend the data and evidence.
“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.”
Vallance’s testimony provides new insight into Johnson’s approach to science during his time as prime minister. He cited extracts from his diary that were relayed to the inquiry, which revealed that Johnson was “bamboozled” by graphs and data.
Despite these struggles, Vallance said Johnson was not alone in facing difficulties understanding scientific evidence during the pandemic. Many leaders across Europe also grappled with understanding scientific advice, especially in the early stages of the pandemic.
Vallance recalled a meeting with fellow advisers from across Europe where one country declared their leader had enormous problems with exponential curves. The call ended in laughter because it was true for every country involved.
Johnson is due to address the inquiry before Christmas. The U.K. has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Europe, with over 232,000 deaths recorded as a result of the virus so far.
The public inquiry led by retired Judge Heather Hallett is expected to take three years to complete.
Johnson resigned as prime minister in September 2021 following allegations of rule-breaking parties at his Downing Street residence during lockdown.
The probe will examine how decisions were made around COVID-19 policies, including issues around testing and vaccines.
Bereaved families have been calling for an independent investigation into Johnson’s actions throughout his tenure as prime minister.
The revelations about Johnson’s approach to science during his time as prime minister are likely to come under scrutiny during this public inquiry.