UK's coronavirus outcome 'has not been good', country's chief scientist says
Sir Patrick Vallance speaks at a briefing on COVID-19 measures, as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world, in London, Britain, March 19, 2020.
London, United Kingdom - Vallance says some decisions taken haven't been the right ones, with UK having highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe.
Britain has not achieved a good outcome in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government's chief scientific adviser said on Thursday, adding that he was sure mistakes had been made.
Britain has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe, which, including deaths from suspected cases, is nearly 56,000 according to a Reuters tally of official data sources.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a lockdown on March 23, though a former member of the government's scientific advisory group has said that introducing measures a week earlier could have halved the death toll.
"It's very difficult to know exactly where we stand at the moment. It's clear that the outcome has not been good in the UK ..," Patrick Vallance told lawmakers, adding that some countries had done worse.
"There will be things, decisions made, that will turn out not to have been the right decisions at the time, I'm sure about that as well."
He said the advice to introduce stringent lockdown measures was made when the rate at which the epidemic doubled increased to three days from six or seven days beforehand, but added that such advice could only be given once the data came in.
Heath Secretary Matt Hancock, questioned about Vallance's assertion that scientific advisers had recommended measures be taken earlier, told lawmakers the lockdown had started on March 16, rather than a week later when Johnson told Britons they must stay at home.
"The 16th of March is the day I came to this House and said all unnecessary social contact should cease," he said. "That is precisely when the lockdown was started."
Vallance said there were "pretty strong hints" the new coronavirus was seasonal and could return in future years.
"What we're dealing with now is a suppressed first wave," he said. "I think it's quite probable that we will see this virus coming back in different waves over a number of years."
Meanwhile, the British government on Thursday said it will partially ease a two-week-old local lockdown imposed on the central English city Leicester, after the number of new coronavirus cases had fallen.
However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers that indicators of Covid-19 in the city remained well above the average seen across England and in surrounding areas.
The mixed picture meant restrictions on schools, early years childcare and non-essential retail stores will be relaxed from July 24, he added.
But other measures impacting travel, social gatherings and the hospitality sector would remain.
"We're now in a position to relax some, but not all of the restrictions that were in place," Hancock said in a statement to parliament.
"Some say that the local lockdown is unnecessary. I wish this were true, but sadly it remains vital for the health of everyone," he added, vowing to review them again in two weeks.
The government ordered schools and non-essential shops to be closed and postponed the planned reopening of pubs in Leicester on June 29 after an alarming spike in virus cases.
It was the first big test of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "whack-a-mole" strategy to control the disease while trying to get the economy moving again by easing the nationwide lockdown.
Britain has suffered the deadliest outbreak of the virus in Europe, with the government registering more than 45,000 deaths of people testing positive for Covid-19.
More comprehensive counts by the Office for National Statistics show the death toll could be higher than 65,000 when all so-called excess fatalities during recent months are included.