Sir David King asks why scientific advisers didn’t ‘speak up' to force earlier lockdown in 2020

21 February 2021, 13:49 | Updated: 21 February 2021, 14:28

By Asher McShane

Independent SAGE chair Sir David King today delivered criticism of the government's scientific advisers at the start of the pandemic, asking "why didn't they speak up at the time?" to call for an earlier lockdown in 2020.

In an exchange on Swarbrick on Sunday on LBC, Sir David accused Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries of leading the country into "disaster" last year.

In a discussion on the reopening of schools, Sir David said: "Schools are centres of community transmission”

To which Tom Swarbrick replied: “With respect Sir David tell that to Jenny Harries”

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Sir David said: “This is the same deputy chief medical officer who led us into this disaster back in February/March last year.

“I think let's just remember that we have never been cautious enough from within government and maybe within government advisers.

“That is the whole reason I set up Independent SAGE.”

Tom Swarbrick answered: “You think some of the scientists around the Prime Minister led us into this disaster?”

“When you have advisers and you keep saying that we are following the scientific advice, and that advice isn’t in the public domain, it’s difficult to say this, said Sir David.

“But what I do want to say is: why didn’t they speak up at the time, when we didn’t go into lockdown early enough?”

The first national lockdown was announced on March 23 last year.

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The Department of Health and Social care said the pandemic response had been guided by SAGE experts and had been constantly adapted as new evidence emerged in order to save lives and protest the NHS.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Throughout this pandemic, we have responded rapidly and decisively to outbreaks with a range of local and national measures and are constantly reviewing our responses to build our understanding of how to manage future outbreaks.

“Our priority from the outset has been to protect the NHS to save lives and we have taken advice from scientific and medical experts throughout. As new evidence has emerged, we have adapted our approach and taken swift action to try and stop the spread of the virus.

“We are now undertaking the biggest vaccination rollout in UK history, with over 17 million people having received their first vaccine, and it is vital people continue to play their part by adhering to the guidance.”