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Sage adviser brands Sunak ‘main person responsible’ for second wave of C-19 infections

THE Chancellor is facing explosive allegations of being responsible for the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new book on the government’s handling of the crisis. 

In Failures of State, extracts of which have been printed in the Times, senior sources from the Sage committee allege that Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed the advice of Chancellor Rishi Sunak rather than heeding their own warnings to enter lockdown as Covid-19 infections rose.

In mid-September, government advisers Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty urged the Prime Minister to impose a short “circuit-breaker” to bring infections down. The pair argued that without drastic intervention, the country was on track for 200 to 500 deaths a day by early November. 

Mr Sunak allegedly met with the PM to express concerns over the impact that such action would have on jobs, with Mr Johnson reportedly deciding to side with the Chancellor against his scientific advisers.

The Sage adviser who spoke to authors Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott said that he believed Mr Sunak was in charge “He was the main person responsible for the second wave,” he said.

Research by Imperial College estimates that more than 2.5 million people were infected with Covid-19 between the day Sage called for a circuit-breaker and the end of the second lockdown on December 1.

Downing Street denied at the time that the PM had “ignored” the science. 

It is also claimed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was pushing at the time for tougher measures, while the Chancellor demanded the opposite in order to protect the economy. 

September’s wrangle between the PM and his scientific advisers followed the Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which was was unrolled across the country in August, despite  more than 1,000 positive Covid infections being recoreded per day.

“It wasn’t about support for restaurants, otherwise [the offer would] have counted for takeaways,” a Sage source said. “It was to break our fear, and it worked. It just seemed insane.”

The government was widely criticised in early September for its “back to work” message, which was scrapped only a few weeks later due to rising infections. 

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