Ministers were accused of being ‘in the grip’ of the Chief Medical Officer on Saturday night amid concerns he could resign or speak out if his push for tough lockdown measures was ignored.
The Government is locked in a fierce debate over which steps to take in the face of a second wave of Covid with increasing concerns about the impact tougher measures will have on the economy.
One source said of Professor Chris Whitty: ‘He only has a medical brief so he doesn’t really consider economic factors. He is very well regarded and there is a fear that if the Government defied his instructions or advice, he would make that known.’
On Saturday night, a source close to Prof Whitty denied he had explicitly, or implicitly, given the impression he would resign.
Ministers were accused of being ‘in the grip’ of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty amid concerns he could resign if his push for tough lockdown measures was ignored
Despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma fighting to protect the economy, Ministers are leaning towards introducing tougher restrictions.
One senior Conservative said: ‘If you speak to the Treasury, people are tearing their hair out.
‘The main problem is we are being driven by an enormous amount of panic by scientists and doctors. Why aren’t we reporting the extra deaths from stroke and heart disease caused by people being afraid of going to hospital?
‘Scientists never concern themselves about the economy. The Government has to stand up to them. But the whole Health department is in their grip.’
A Minister warned last night: ‘The more severe the lockdown, the more severe the economic crisis.’
A source close to a senior Cabinet Minister added: ‘The financial damage that would be caused would affect people’s health too.’
Prof Whitty ‘has to be’ listened to, another source said, ‘because if he resigns, it’s a massive credibility loss for the Government’.
Previous reports that Prof Whitty has threatened to quit were strongly denied by the Government.
Despite this rumours continue to swirl about his hold on Ministers.
‘What he has let them know is – he could go,’ the source said. ‘If he goes, can you imagine what he could say in an interview?’
The advocates of tougher lockdown measures are led by Prof Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma have expressed concern about the impact that tougher coronavirus measures will have on the economy
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