British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has claimed that doing his own research into COVID-19 and presented his results using homemade spreadsheets at crucial Cabinet meetings, helping to avert a lockdown in Christmas 2021.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Shapps said that he made his own spreadsheets based on international data and sometimes presented his findings at Cabinet and ministerial meetings “to bolster resistance to further restrictions.”
In 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered a fierce debate over imposing fresh COVID-19 restrictions amid opposition from his own Cabinet.
At the time, government scientific advisers SAGE called for an “immediate” curtailment of indoor mixing to combat the spread of the Omicron virus variant. Johnson eventually refused any COVID-19 restrictions.
Shapps said he was able to do his own research and help block a Christmas lockdown.
“I was able to present data based on three South African studies which wasn’t available from the standard SAGE presentation. In a close-run discussion, we didn’t lock down. The NHS wasn’t overrun,” said Shapps.
“As ministers gained in confidence, we did get to the point of being able to understand and analyse the data much better. In fact, I would construct spreadsheets based on international data and sometimes present my findings at Cabinet and COVID-O meetings,” he added.
“This analysis was particularly relevant when it came to talk about a Christmas 2021 lockdown,” added Shapps.
Shapps said that he had taken time to read three South African research reports into the Omicron variant.
“I checked the research and then turned the data into my own spreadsheet to come up with my own version of the likely trajectory,” he said.
Shapps is the latest high-profile politician to come out against lockdowns.
Former Chancellor and UK prime minister hopeful Rishi Sunak last week revealed that while the government imposed three national lockdowns on the population during the pandemic, it never properly examined the likely side-effects of the drastic measures.
In a widely reported interview with The Spectator magazine, Sunak said he “wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off” during the early phases of the pandemic and not to questions about the side-effects of lockdown.
“The script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh, there’s no trade-off because doing this for our health is good for the economy,” said Sunak.
Shapps is supporting Sunak to become prime minister.
Speaking at a hustings event in the Tory leadership race on Aug. 25, frontrunner Liz Truss said that UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was “too draconian” and also vowed never to impose another lockdown if she becomes prime minister in September.
“My view is we did go too far, particularly on keeping schools closed,” she said.
“I’ve got two teenage daughters and know how difficult it was for children and parents and I would not have a lockdown again,” she added.
Alexander Zhang contributed to this report.