Boris Johnson was told by Sage to stop blaming public for spike in COVID cases

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Boris Johnson attends a service to commemorate the Centenary Of The Burial Of The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey on November 11, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Boris Johnson was told by his top scientists to 'avoid blame' when trying to encourage people to follow COVID rules. (Samir Hussein/pool/WireImage)
  • Boris Johnson was told to stop blaming public for increasing COVID infections, newly released Sage document shows

  • Top scientists called for “more positive approaches” to encourage people to follow COVID rules

  • PM and ministers had blamed public amid autumn spike in cases

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

Boris Johnson was told by his top coronavirus advisers to stop blaming the public for a spike in cases, it has emerged.

Minutes for a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), released on Friday, showed scientists made a thinly-veiled swipe at Johnson and his ministers following a number of instances in which they criticised the public as COVID-19 infections rose.

In the meeting on 22 October, the scientists warned “more positive approaches to sustaining adherence are needed, avoiding blame and focusing on enabling members of the public to engage sustainably with infection control behaviours, rather than seeking to ensure compliance with rules by relying on enforcement”.

Sage said the government could instead “provide positive feedback” and promote “positive alternatives to restricted activities”.

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Examples of the government having blamed the public include:

Johnson was criticised for this in light of his backing of top adviser Dominic Cummings after his infamous trips to Durham and Barnard Castle days after the first national lockdown was imposed.

A top behavioural scientist, Prof Stephen Reicher, also argued it was government policies such as encouraging people to go back to their workplaces and use pubs and restaurants that were more to blame for the autumn spike in COVID cases.

Watch: 8 exceptions to England's second national lockdown

Read more: COVID infections drop by 6,000... but new daily number is still second highest ever

Meanwhile, the new SAGE document also pointed to a lack of trust from young people in Johnson’s government.

“Young people are adhering less and have lower trust in government relative to the rest of the population,” the minutes read.

Sage even recommended Downing Street to stop trying to connect with young people over COVID as they are “more likely to trust in messages from non-government sources, such as charities, celebrities, sports clubs and commercial brands”.

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