'WE ARE F***ED!' Director of No10's 'nudge unit' reveals Downing Street colleague leaned over and scribbled over his note saying country was 'not ready' for 'unstoppable' Covid wave during gloomy March 2020 meeting

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An definitive statement stating 'we are f***ed' was passed betwixt 2 technological advisers to nan Government during a crunch gathering astatine nan commencement of nan pandemic.

Dr David Halpern, president of No10's 'nudge unit' which encouraged group to instrumentality to rules during nan pandemic, said nan 'penny dropped' among officials astir nan seriousness of nan incoming Covid activity successful a sit-down chat connected March 13, 2020.

He wrote that 'we are not ready', which was seen by a Downing Street colleague, who scribbled complete nan statement truthful that it publication 'we are f***ed', nan UK Covid-19 Inquiry heard today.

Speaking astatine nan inquiry, he said nan statement was made aft proceeding grounds that nan NHS would beryllium overwhelmed by nan 'unstoppable' wave, location was insufficient testing capacity and modelling of nan effect of nan microorganism had been 'overconfident'.

Dr David Halpern (pictured), president of a 'nudge unit' utilized by No10 to promote group to instrumentality to rules during nan pandemic, said nan 'penny dropped' among officials astir nan seriousness of nan incoming Covid activity during a gathering connected March 13, 2020

He wrote that 'we are not ready', which was seen by a colleague, who scribbled complete nan statement truthful that it publication 'we are f***ed' (pictured), nan UK Covid-19 Inquiry heard today

The enquiry is successful its 2nd module, which is examining halfway UK decision-making and governmental governance. During a proceeding today, counsel Dermot Keating asked whether Dr Halpern made nan note.

Dr Halpern said: 'I did indeed, wrote it successful superior letters, it was truthful striking.'

Mr Keating said: 'A No10 workfellow leaned over, crossed retired your entry, which we spot astatine nan bottommost of nan page, and what was written alternatively of "we are not ready"?'

Dr Halpern said: 'We are f***ed.'

He confirmed that nan remark was written by Ben Warner, a information intelligence astatine No10, who worked pinch Dominic Cummings connected nan Vote Leave Brexit run and attended Sage meetings.

Asked whether that represented his concerns and readiness for nan 'unstoppable activity that was astir to come', Dr Halpern said: 'Yes. Remember, nan 1 play that you had successful a strategy arsenic was expressed to us, was that you tin style nan wave. 

'As referred to endlessly, you could flatten it etc. and you were trying to do it to extremity nan NHS being overwhelmed. 

'But successful this meeting, you're proceeding grounds that, connected existent trajectory, it is going to beryllium overwhelmed, that we don't person nan testing ready, nan models look over-confident, there's a batch of grounds for concern. 

'And so, hence, I really felt rather shocked and depressed. I felt it's not our domiciled to do each those things. We're moving connected nan behavioural aspects.

'The wide consciousness was that, arsenic successful my notebook, we, nan country, nan policy, is not fresh for what's unfolding.

'I felt that connected people's faces successful nan room, that location was immoderate realisation of it. A benignant of cracking successful nan confidence.' 

Others successful nan gathering had felt, for illustration him, that nan Government should beryllium pursuing suppression strategies, he said.

It came 10 days earlier nan first nationalist lockdown was announced connected March 23 and 3 days earlier then-prime curate Boris Johnson told group to extremity non-essential interaction and travel.

Dr Halpern is president of the Behavioural Insights Team, which was launched nether David Cameron's Government, nan group was responsible for positively influencing behaviour pinch mini changes without introducing legislation.

Its erstwhile successes included boosting diverseness successful nan constabulary force, helping nan Job Centre get much group disconnected benefits and expanding nan number of organ donors.

The nudge portion was progressive successful overmuch of nan government's messaging during nan pandemic, including nan 'Hands, Face, Space' and 'Stay home-Protect nan NHS' slogans.

However, earlier this twelvemonth its co-founder accused nan Government of using scare strategies to get group to travel Covid rules during nan pandemic. 

Behavioural intelligence Simon Ruda suggested location had been an overemphasis connected modelling and information that he warned was 'propagandistic'.

Dr Halpern told nan enquiry coming that 'hubris' and 'overconfidence' that nan UK would not beryllium deed arsenic difficult by nan pandemic hampered its learning from different countries.

He said that pridefulness successful UK subject led to a hold successful considering approaches by different nations affected astatine nan commencement of nan crisis. 

In a missive to elder officials successful July 2020 criticising nan first response, he wrote: 'Ironically, nan pridefulness successful our subject and our capabilities slowed our expertise to study lessons from different countries nether screen of variations of "it is very different there", location was an arrogance that we knew amended and would do better.'

He said anchoring — a trouble successful moving distant from anterior assumptions — among nan aesculapian organization led to a presumption that Covid would beryllium a flu-like wave.

Dr Halpern said this was 'the astir basal misstep' successful nan early handling of nan microorganism and prevented nan description of supressing its spread.

There was 'a touch of hubris that we knew amended and we would do better, alongside criticisms of really severely different countries were doing,' he wrote. 

He said overconfidence 'characterised a batch of what was happening from early connected to those very early comparisons to different countries — Japan, Germany — and it made america slower to look really cautiously astatine what they did and study nan lessons from them.

'It besides had galore different manifestations. Masks would beryllium an example. We felt that nan grounds became very compelling, surely by precocious March, early April, for masks, and location was a beardown anchoring successful scepticism successful galore of nan aesculapian community.'

Dr Halpern besides criticised Boris Johnson’s government's 'stay alert' messaging. 'It tells you to interest and doesn't show you what to do — nan worst combination,' he said.

Speaking astatine an arena successful January, Dr Halpern revealed that he subliminally shamed Mr Johnson into wearing a disguise by showing him comparable world leaders doing so.

Speaking to nan Reckitt Global Hygiene Institute, he said: 'We did stock pinch him a descent battalion astatine 1 point. It had a bid of images of beautiful overmuch each azygous world leader wearing a mask, and past a image pinch him not'.

He added that this has nan effect of showing that 'a normal point for a world leader to do correct now is deterioration a mask'.

Mr Johnson's disguise wearing habits deed nan headlines successful November 2021 erstwhile he apologised for failing to screen up during a sojourn to a hospital.

He insisted he collapsed nan rules for 'barely 30 seconds' aft he was photographed without a look covering during a travel to Hexham General Hospital.


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