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The outcome of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK “has not been good” and the disease is likely to return in a number of “different waves”, the government’s chief scientific adviser said.
Patrick Vallance told MPs on Thursday there was also a “very high likelihood” there will be an increase in cases this winter.
Speaking to the Commons science committee, he said it would have been “absolutely preferable” to have much greater testing capacity earlier in the pandemic.
Vallance told MPs in March that a death toll of around 20,000 people in the UK would be a “good outcome”.
The latest figures from the Department for Health and Social Care show at least 45,119 people have died having tested positive for Covid-19, but the true figure is likely much higher taking into account people who have died with suspected cases, or as a result of the pandemic stretching health services. UK excess deaths, considered the most reliable measure of an illness’s true death toll, are in the region of 65,000 since the virus broke out.
“It’s clear that the outcome has not been good in the UK. I think you can be absolutely clear about that,” Vallance said today.
“There will be decisions made that will turn out not to have been the right decisions at the time.”
Vallance said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had advised on March 16 that a full lockdown be introduced “as soon as possible”.
Boris Johnson imposed a full nationwide lockdown on March 23.
Vallance added today: “It would have been absolutely preferable to have much greater testing capacity early on.
“But it’s not just testing – it’s basic information flows around patients in hospitals, around rates of admission, around rates of movement. Those sorts of things are important parts of this as well.”
Asked about the potential of a second wave, Vallance said what is usually meant by this is a re-emergence of the first wave.
“All we have done is suppress the first wave and when you take the brakes off you would expect it to come back,” he said.
He told MPs there was a “very high likelihood” that there would be an increase in cases in the winter.
“You could argue that is the tail end of the first wave still,” he said.
“And I think it is quite probable that we will see this virus coming back in different waves over a number of years.”
Vallance also said he saw “absolutely no reason” to change the advice that people should work from home if their companies were able to function well in those circumstances. The government has come under fire in recent days for muddled messaging around the issue, with justice secretary Robert Buckland telling people to “work from home if you can” but also “come back to work”.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.