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7 Jun, 2020 14:07

‘Very hard to pull the trigger at that point, but I wish we had’: UK govt adviser says early lockdown would have saved many lives

‘Very hard to pull the trigger at that point, but I wish we had’: UK govt adviser says early lockdown would have saved many lives

A senior government adviser has argued that the UK’s failure to enter into lockdown sooner cost numerous lives, as Britain grapples with how to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told the BBC on Sunday that the country was too slow in imposing strict restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“I think it would have been very hard to pull the trigger at that point, but I wish we had. I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. I think that has cost a lot of lives unfortunately,” he said, noting that poor “situational awareness” of the disease contributed to the government’s slow response.

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Responding to the professor’s criticism, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government took the “right decisions at the right time.” He noted that members of SAGE hold a range of opinions, and that Downing Street has been “guided by the balance of that opinion” offered by its advisers.

Edmunds’ warning comes amid doubts over the efficacy of the government’s actions during the pandemic. Earlier in May, a grim side effect of the lockdown was highlighted by Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University. He estimated that up to 30% of the excess deaths seen during the health crisis cannot be directly attributed to coronavirus. He suggested that these fatalities were likely due to people not seeking necessary medical treatment for other ailments.

As in many other countries, a staggering proportion of coronavirus-related deaths can be traced to care homes which house those most vulnerable to the disease. The Guardian reported on Sunday, citing data compiled by a major healthcare business consultancy, that as of the end of June, an astonishing 57% of England’s Covid-19 deaths are expected to have happened in assisted living facilities.

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Black Lives Matter protests that have erupted in London have added to the unease and confusion surrounding the coronavirus measures. Many have expressed anger that they were prevented from holding weddings, attending funerals or going to school – only to watch thousands of people flooding the streets of the capital. Matt Hancock has warned that Covid-19 cases could surge following the massive demonstrations, noting that gathering in large groups is still against the rules and that the virus “doesn’t discriminate.”

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