Millions of Brits ordered to isolate for months – despite chief scientist warning it’s ‘not effective’, messages reveal


MILLIONS of vulnerable Brits were told to shield during the pandemic, despite the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor describing the measure as “not very effective”.

At the height of the Covid crisis in August 2020, Sir Patrick Vallance sent a WhatsApp message to then-PM Boris Johnson, warning him isolating isn’t easy and doesn’t work well.


Sir Chris Whitty, Boris Johnson and Sir Patrick Vallance at a press conference during the Covid pandemicCredit: AFP

The leaked text, which was part of a group chat comprising senior ministers and officials, read: “It is a theoretically attractive idea but in reality we haven’t found shielding easy or very effective first time round and I don’t think anyone else has either.

“It is a particular problem with multigenerational households and will be even more difficult amongst some parts of society.”

Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty weighed in too, telling Boris on WhatsApp he’d personally “think twice” before introducing shielding again, after it was first tried in March 2020.

The ex-PM told his top advisors that if he was an 80-year-old and had to pick “between destroying the economy and risking my exposure to a disease that I had a 94 per cent chance of surviving, I know what I would prefer”.

And Boris also compared the risk of over-65s’ from Covid to that of “falling down stairs”.

He said: “We don’t stop older people from using stairs.”

Despite this and Mr Vallance’s advice, the controversial policy came into force for a second time in November during lockdown two.

The government wrote to vulnerable Brits, recommending they stay at home “as much as possible, except to go outdoors for exercise or to attend essential health appointments. People can exercise with those they live with or in their support bubble”.

PM avoids being drawn on Hancock’s messages & says inquiry will probe pandemic
Hancock 'rejected Whitty’s advice on care home testing' as Covid ravaged UK

Then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We know that this is a difficult time and many people are making significant sacrifices. Thank you for your efforts to keep yourself and others safe.”

Today a row erupted in Westminster as Hancock and current ministers defended the government’s handling of Covid – describing fresh reports of mismanagement as “selective.”

More WhatsApp messages leaked to the Daily Telegraph revealed the ex-Health Secretary rejected Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty’s advice to test “all people going into care homes”.

At first Hancock welcomed the suggestion as a “good positive step”.

But he then changed his mind.

He told officials he only wanted to test people entering care homes from hospital — not those from the wider community.

At PMQs Mr Sunak refused to be drawn on the scandal, insisting it is for the independent Covid-19 public inquiry to pass judgement on how ministers handled the pandemic.

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