Professor Chris Whitty warned last month that five-week gaps are needed between each step to loosen lockdown as he said that an additional 30,000 deaths could occur in another COVID-19 surge. The Government’s adviser appeared to be concerned about complacency as the UK’s vaccine rollout sparks excitement that lockdowns could soon be a thing of the past. The Chief Medical Officer added: “All the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge and that will find the people who either have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked. “Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die.”
Professor Whitty’s calls for caution have already seen him clash with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the last year.
In June 2020, debate had started on whether lockdown should be eased.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Johnson ordered his ministers to ease lockdown to avoid a “jobs bloodbath”.
This also came after a meeting with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other key ministers, who reportedly decided to throw away the cautious approach.
As highlighted in extracts from Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott’s new book ‘Failures of State’, “the cracks had been appearing between the scientists and politicians”.
Professor Whitty and his colleague Sir Patrick Vallance appeared to be concerned, as on June 14 last year reports suggested they were placed on “resignation watch”.
The Prime Minister’s aides were said to be concerned that the advisers would walk.
A SAGE scientist was quoted as saying at the time: “We have had enough of being treated as human shields by the Prime Minister.”
Clashes in Number 10 and the Government would once again occur in January as the UK recorded a record 1,820 deaths in one day.
Reports suggested tempers flared at the heart of Westminster as SAGE advisers fumed at the Government, and specifically, Chancellor Sunak.
‘Failures of State’ extracts also show crucial delays in decisions taken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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A SAGE source said on Eat Out to Help Out: “It wasn’t about support for restaurants, otherwise it would have counted for takeaways.
“It was to break our fear and it worked. We were obviously going to have to reverse that. It just seemed insane.”
A paper published in October suggested the scheme was responsible for between eight percent and 17 percent of new infection clusters (i.e. infections that shared a common location).
However, Full Fact highlights in its article earlier this month that “we cannot reliably say whether this is true. One study estimates that it did cause extra Covid cases, but it is uncertain, and often misunderstood”.
Another SAGE source said: “I thought the Chancellor was in charge. He was the main person who was responsible for the second wave.”
Failure of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus, by Jonathan Calvert and George Arburthnott, was published by Mudlark in March. It is available here.