Coronavirus: Former chief scientific adviser says government's lockdown 'delay' has cost lives

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Boris Johnson announces the coronavirus lockdown on 23 March. A former UK chief scientific adviser has said the 'delay' imposing this has cost lives. (PA)

The UK’s former chief scientific adviser has said Boris Johnson’s “delay” in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown has cost lives.

In a scathing assessment of the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Sir David King said “every day’s delay has resulted in further deaths”.

The latest official death toll stands at 12,107, while the number of people infected is set to pass 100,000 in the next couple of days.

Johnson imposed a full lockdown on 23 March, having initially requested people to work from home and avoid social venues on 16 March.

Sir David King is a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government. (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for ReSource 2012)

Sir David was the chief scientific adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown between 2000 and 2007.

It’s the job currently held by Sir Patrick Vallance, one of the key figures in driving the prime minister’s coronavirus response.

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Sir David told LBC: “I'm very saddened by the predicament we're in. Why we didn't respond so much sooner once this epidemic broke out in China, I simply don't know.

“I say this because in 2006, we published a report on actions needed to deal with a pandemic and in that report, we showed that if an outbreak occurred of any new virus of this kind anywhere in the world, within three months, due to air travel, it would be everywhere in the world.

"That of course is what has happened and it seems like we were unprepared and we didn't take action.”

Sir David pointed to the Cheltenham Festival horse racing event on 16 March as he went on: “We didn't manage this until too late and every day's delay has resulted in further deaths in the United Kingdom.”

Asked if the government was “negligent” and “asleep at the wheel”, Sir David claimed the austerity measures of the David Cameron and George Osborne government “led to the cutting back of risk management programmes”.

He said: “It goes right back to 2010 when the government came in with a very clear policy to reduce public spending across the board, including the National Health Service.”

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