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Sun, 17 January 2021

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Coronavirus
By Baroness Young
Health
Brexit
Health
Coronavirus
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Government scientific adviser accuses Boris Johnson of ‘trashing’ lockdown advice by defending Dominic Cummings

Government scientific adviser accuses Boris Johnson of ‘trashing’ lockdown advice by defending Dominic Cummings
2 min read

A member of the Government’s own advisory panel on behavioural science has accused Boris Johnson of “trashing” his colleagues’ work by backing Dominic Cummings in a row over lockdown.

Professor Stephen Reicher sits on the Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) which gives advice to the Government’s wider Scientific Group for Emergencies (Sage).

Mr Johnson on Sunday said his top aide had acted “acted legally, responsibly and with integrity” when he travelled to his family home in Durham during lockdown to seek help with childcare.

But Prof Reicher said: "I can say that in a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control Covid-19.

And he added: "Be open and honest, we said. Trashed.

"Respect the public, we said. Trashed. Ensure equity, so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed.

"Be consistent we said. Trashed. Make clear 'we are all in it together'. Trashed.

"It is very hard to provide scientific advice to a Government which doesn't want to listen to science.

"I hope, however, that the public will read our papers and continue to make up for this bad Government with their own good sense."

The message was shared on social media by other members of the panel, including Robert West, professor of Health Psychology at University College London (UCL), who said: "I am sorry to have to say that as another member of SPI-B I have to agree."

His UCL colleague Susan Michie, director of the university's Centre for Behaviour Change, said: "As another member of SPI-B, I completely agree."

Speaking at the daily Number 10 press conference on Sunday, Mr Johnson said he stood behind Mr Cummings after “extensive face-to-face” talks with the top aide.

He said: “I concluded that in travelling to find the right kind of childcare at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus and when he had no alternative, I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.”

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