Government were underplaying coronavirus numbers during peak, says ex-Chief Science Adviser

20 June 2020, 10:28 | Updated: 20 June 2020, 10:31

By Seán Hickey

The UK's death toll during the peak was around 1,000 daily deaths and we risk seeing the same numbers again if lockdown is eased too early.

Professor Sir David King co-ordinated an initiative which has suggested that for twenty days of the UK's coronavirus peak, the daily death toll was over 1,000. The alternative SAGE member joined Andrew Castle, who asked him if "the UK government been underplaying the numbers?"

Professor Sir David told Andrew that he definitely believes this is the case. "I'm very keen to see how we can go forward from where we are, the number of deaths, fourteen hundred and fifty on that date in April and then I think, what is it, for twenty days over a thousand deaths per day is just an outline of the major challenge we have in managing this epidemic.

"If we had gone into lockdown just a week earlier the number of deaths would have been just a quarter of that number, that's a very significant number of lives."

The former CSA to the government warned against reopening the economy prematurely, and gave instances where he saw people who have not been looked after by employers contracting coronavirus in the workplace.

1,000 people were dying from coronavirus daily in the UK for twenty days according to Professor Sir David King
1,000 people were dying from coronavirus daily in the UK for twenty days according to Professor Sir David King. Picture: PA

"What we have to aim to do is be at zero virus" Professor Sir David told Andrew, and warned that if the UK opens up too early, "we will return to a thousand deaths per day."

The independent SAGE member argued that the rate of infection in the UK is currently dangerously high and we cannot afford to ease lockdown in this scenario.

"If we were at this place back in April, we would have said 'go into lockdown.'" He pointed out.

"The biggest problem would be to get impatient and unlock the process too early" Professor Sir David warned, which he sees as the case currently.

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