Chief scientific adviser Vallance says he does not ‘sugarcoat’ for Government

The Government’s chief scientific adviser has said acting sooner and harder is the best way to deal with the spread of a future variant of Covid-19.

Sir Patrick Vallance said his job is “not to sugarcoat” the reality or tell ministers what they want to hear, but instead to ensure they understand what the science currently is.

He said his “mantra” throughout the pandemic has been that action needs to be taken sooner than it appears to be needed.

In a wide-ranging interview on BBC Radio 4, Sir Patrick said: “My mantra for a long time during this (pandemic) has been… ‘You’ve got to go sooner than you want to in terms of taking interventions. You’ve got to go harder than you want to, and you’ve got to go more geographically broad than you want to’.

Coronavirus – Mon Jul 19, 2021
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

“And that is the Sage advice. And that’s what I’ve been saying. And I will say it going forward and the Prime Minister knows that’s what I think.

“And he knows that’s what I would do in that situation.”

He said action must be taken “at a time when it doesn’t look particularly worrying”.

Sir Patrick, who became a household name during the course of the pandemic due to his frequent appearances at daily televised press briefings in Downing Street, said he views his job as “giving scientific advice, like it or not, to the Prime Minister and Cabinet to enable them to make decisions”.

He told interviewer Professor Jim Al-Khalili: “My job is not to sugarcoat it. My job is not to tell them things they want to hear… It’s to make sure that they understand what the science at that moment is saying, what the uncertainties are, and to try to make that as clear as possible.”

– The Patrick Vallance Interview is on Radio 4 at 8pm on Tuesday as part of the station’s Day Of The Scientist.