The prime minister imposed the UK’s second lockdown based on “wildly incorrect” Covid-19 modelling which was leaked to the press, MPs have heard.
The model, from Cambridge University and Public Health England (PHE) warned of 4,000 deaths a day by the end of December.
Deputy chairman of the Covid-19 recovery group, Steve Baker advised Boris Johnson to challenge the model at the time.
A number of scientists, including professor Tim Spector of King’s College London and professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University, were hauled in to assess the data.
“By Monday, Carl Heneghan had taken the wheels of those death projections, by which time the Prime Minister had, disgracefully, been bounced using a leak into a lockdown. This is absolutely no way to conduct public policy,” Baker told a debate at Westminster Hall on the use of models in the pandemic yesterday.
“The reality is the prime minister was shown a terrifying model which was subsequently proven to be widely incorrect but he took away freedoms from tens of millions on that basis.”
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup in response said that an inquiry into modelling should form part of the wider pandemic inquiry to ensure “lessons will be learned”.
However, what was happening in the UK, in hospitals and in other countries at the time also informed decision making in government, Throup added.
“Modelling is helpful but it must be considered alongside what is happening to real people at home, in schools or in hospitals,” she said.