Action ought to have been taken earlier against the unfold of Covid-19, Sir Chris Whitty has stated, although he denied warning ministers against lockdowns.
In generally tense exchanges with Hugo Keith KC, lead counsel to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, England’s chief medical officer described how he had set out the downsides of locking down however argued that was not the identical as saying it shouldn’t occur.
Sir Chris was put below intense scrutiny following revelations from former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on Monday that he and Sir Chris didn’t at all times see eye-to-eye on the pace at which motion was wanted.
Sir Chris stated he was “very conscious” that there have been two issues that wanted to be balanced – “the danger of going early (into lockdown or different related measures), and the danger of going too late”.
He added: “My view is, with the good thing about hindsight, we went a bit too late on the primary wave.”
Sir Chris stated there was inevitable variation between what folks thought when balancing all the problems.
He added: “And I was in all probability additional in the direction of, ‘let’s suppose by way of the disadvantages right here earlier than we act’ and likewise in ensuring that in giving my recommendation that ministers had been conscious of each side of the equation.”
Sir Chris stated variations between himself Sir Patrick had been truly “extraordinarily small”.
Requested about claims in Sir Jeremy Farrar’s e book about “friction or pressure” between the highest advisers within the early days of the pandemic, Sir Chris replied: “Nicely, Sir Jeremy, who is an effective buddy and colleague, had a e book to promote, and that made it extra thrilling, I’m informed.
“My very own view was that really the variations had been extraordinarily small.”
He stated each he and Sir Patrick thought it was “acceptable” for Sir Chris to contemplate points such because the influence of lockdowns on non-Covid sicknesses and dying in addition to elements resembling loneliness.
Sir Chris informed the inquiry: “I did have a stronger concern, I might say than some, that the largest impacts of every little thing we did – and I was assured we had been going to must do them to be clear.
“However after we began, the disadvantages of all of the actions, not only for lockdown, however different actions earlier than that, for instance, what was initially known as cocooning after which shielding for instance, and stopping education as one other.
“The most important impacts of these can be areas of deprivation and people in difficulties and people dwelling alone and so forth.
“So, I was very conscious that we primarily had two various things we had been making an attempt to stability the danger of going too early, during which case you get all of the damages from this with truly pretty minimal influence on the epidemic, and the danger of going too late, during which case you get all the issues of the pandemic operating away.”
Mr Keith pressed Sir Chris on whether or not he was extra cautious than others in desirous to see how Covid would unfold.
Sir Chris stated: “I’ve rejected, and I’ll proceed to reject, your characterisation of this as overreaction, as a result of that means that I assumed that in a way the motion shouldn’t occur.
“What I assumed ought to occur is that folks ought to be conscious that, with out motion, very severe issues would happen however the downsides of these actions ought to be made clear.
“I don’t contemplate that incorrect.”
Earlier, Sir Chris argued that it’s “essential to recognise that it will have been incorrect to swing the entire of the medical occupation over to this” in February 2020.
“Even on the top of the pandemic, extra folks died of causes not Covid than died of Covid,” he stated. “Each a kind of deaths is tragic on each of these sides.”
Sir Chris did agree with Mr Keith that Public Well being England (PHE) struggled to scale up testing when it was wanted.
He additionally stated he was not informed PHE can be disbanded however he didn’t suppose there was any purpose why he can be consulted.