November 30, 2023 1:45 am

LONDON (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to understand the science behind the coronavirus pandemic, his chief scientific advisor testified Monday in an ongoing public inquiry into the country’s COVID-19 response.

Patrick Vallance, who served as Johnson’s chief scientific advisor during the pandemic, said that he and other advisors faced repeated difficulties getting Johnson to grasp complex scientific concepts. “I think I’m right in saying that the prime minister gave up science at 15,” Vallance said. “I think he’d be the first to admit it wasn’t his forte and that he struggled with the concepts.”

Vallance also recalled instances where Johnson was “bamboozled” by graphs and data and had difficulty understanding statistical analysis. Despite these challenges, Vallance emphasized that Johnson’s struggles were not unique among leaders around Europe during the early stages of the pandemic.

The U.K. has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Europe, with more than 232,000 people recorded as having died from the virus as of late November 2022. The inquiry into Britain’s COVID-19 response is being led by retired judge Heather Hallett and is expected to take three years to complete.

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