Britain’s failure to impose a nationwide lockdown to tackle the spread of the coronavirus sooner has cost many lives, one of the government’s scientific advisers said on Sunday.
Britain is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, with a death toll of more than 50,000 from COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally this week based on official sources.
Critics from a broad spectrum including medical professionals, scientists and lawmakers, say the government has botched its response to the outbreak by being too slow in imposing crucial measures such as the lockdown and protecting the elderly in care homes.
Despite reservations from some of its own scientific advisers, the government is now easing nationwide lockdown measures which have closed much of the economy since March 23.
Asked during an interview on BBC TV what regrets he had about the handling of the outbreak, John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said: “We should have gone into lockdown earlier.”
“The data we were dealing with in the early part of March and our situational awareness was really quite poor so I think it would have been very hard to pull the trigger at that point but I wish we had … I think that has cost a lot of lives.”
Asked whether he agreed with Edmunds, health minister Matt Hancock told the BBC: “No. I think we took the right decisions at the right time and there is a broad range on SAGE of scientific opinion and we were guided by the science.”
Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also repeated a previous warning that he would prefer to see the number of new cases, estimated to be around 5,000 a day in the community in England, fall further before restrictions are eased.
“It is definitely not all over, there is an awful long way to go,” he said.