Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s former chief scientific officer, described Sir Chris Whitty as a “delayer” when it came to imposing lockdown. 

His evidence to the Covid inquiry on Monday revealed that there was apparent “palpable tension” between him and the chief medical officer (CMO) over draconian restrictions.

The Covid inquiry was shown an extract from Sir Patrick’s notebooks following a meeting in February 2020, which said: “CMO talked afterwards about inquiry – was lockdown too late in March, could we have known (he was a delayer of course).” 

The hearing was also shown an extract from the memoir of Jeremy Farrar, who was a member of the Sage committee, which read: “That friction, between waiting and wading in, led to a palpable tension between Patrick and Chris in the early weeks of 2020, particularly given the apparent absence of political leadership in that period.”

Asked if there was tension between him and Sir Chris, Sir Patrick told the inquiry: “He was definitely of the view that the treatment and the result of that treatment needs to be considered together. And that pulling the trigger to do things too early could lead to adverse consequences.”

“I didn’t have exactly the same worry. I was more on the side of we need to move on this. But I think that’s partly why the two of us found it useful to work together,” Sir Patrick added.

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