Tory MPs deny scientists that they are trying to ‘bounce us into making decisions’.

  • Leaked minutes revealed advisers are pushing for tougher restrictions on travel
  • Even though there is evidence to suggest that this variant could pose a risk, it may not have been too high.
  • Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader, called for the dissolution of Sage










Scientists were last night accused of trying to ‘bounce’ ministers into imposing draconian restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant.

Leaked minutes from a meeting of the Government’s scientific committee Sage revealed that advisers are pushing for much tougher restrictions on travel despite emerging evidence that the risk posed by the variant may have been overstated.

A Government source voiced irritation over the leak last night, saying the minutes from Monday’s meeting of Sage had been handed to the BBC before they had even been seen by ministers.

And Tory MPs reacted angrily, accusing scientists of ‘scaremongering’. 

Scientists were last night accused of trying to ¿bounce¿ ministers into imposing draconian restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant

Scientists were last night accused of trying to ‘bounce’ ministers into imposing draconian restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for Sage to be broken up and replaced by a new body that was required to follow rules of ‘collective responsibility’. 

He insisted: ‘It is impossible to govern properly if advisers are going to leak bits of their advice or go on the airwaves to talk about it.

‘Sage need to be put back in their box. The Government must see the whole picture. They can only look at one side of the story, while scientists are able to focus on the individual aspects. It is not their job to gainsay ministers’ decisions and try to bounce them into doing something different.

‘You also have to remember that every forecast made by Sage has been wrong. However, it has proven to be right for the Government that they opened their doors in summer. 

‘Tougher restrictions now, when we have no idea what this variant does, would just be another unnecessary hammer blow to the economy.’

Omicron’s revelations prompted ministers to announce a travel ban. The leaked Sage document, however, shows that Government scientists are keen to take things further. 

The minutes state that bringing back pre-departure tests for people flying to the UK would be ‘valuable’.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) called for Sage to be broken up and replaced by a new body that was required to follow rules of ¿collective responsibility¿

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) called for Sage to be broken up and replaced by a new body that was required to follow rules of ‘collective responsibility’

And they say that testing after two days will ‘identify significantly fewer cases’ than if the tests were taken five or eight days after arrival – something that would require much longer quarantine periods.

Labour quickly seized upon the suggestion and demanded the introduction of predeparture tests. 

But Huw Merriman, Tory chairman of the Commons transport committee, told the Daily Mail: ‘These are the same voices of doom who resisted the relaxation of the barriers to international travel over the last year and were proven wrong in the process.’

A Government source said: ‘Sage have been very helpful for the last couple of months so it is disappointing to see this leaked in this way.

‘There are obviously some people wanting to go very hard without really knowing anything. We prefer a balanced approach.’

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