Dr David Halpern's note, as amended by Downing Street official Ben Warner
A senior Downing Street official said the UK was “fucked” because it was so ill-prepared for the first wave of the Covid pandemic.
Ben Warner scribbled the word on a note written by a colleague as panic set in at the top of government.
The revelation came at the Covid Inquiry, which today took evidence from Dr David Halpern, head of the government’s behavioural insights team, commonly known as the “nudge unit”.
The inquiry was shown a note by Halpern on the UK’s preparedness for the pandemic. At the bottom, in capital letters, he had written: “We are not ready.”
Warner, who was a special adviser to Boris Johnson at the time, drew a line through “not ready” and replaced it with “fucked”.
Dermot Keating, "You wrote: WE ARE NOT READY"
Dr David Halpern, "I did, in capital letters"
Keating, "And a No 10 colleague leaned over, crossed out your entry, and what was written instead?"
Halpern, "WE ARE F*CKED"
Keating, "Did that represent your concerns?"
Halpern, "In… pic.twitter.com/B5267fHlN4
— Farrukh (@implausibleblog) November 1, 2023
Inquiry lawyer Dermot Keating asked Halpern: “Did that reflect the concerns, readiness for the unstoppable wave that was about to come?”
Halpern replied: “Yes. Remember, the one play that you had in the strategy as was expressed to us was you can shape the wave ... to try to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.
″But in this meeting you’re hearing evidence that on current trajectory it is going to be overwhelmed, that we don’t have the testing ready ... there’s a lot of grounds for concern, hence I really felt quite shocked and depressed.”
The inquiry has already heard criticism of the government’s response to Covid from Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former top adviser.
Helen MacNamara, the former deputy cabinet secretary, also told the inquiry how Matt Hancock had told his cabinet colleagues that health officials had a plan for dealing with the pandemic when none actually existed.