Chris Whitty admits huge problem with Covid strategy – ‘Virus was widespread in Europe’

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On the first anniversary of the lockdown in England, the chief medical officer opened up on the lessons learnt over the course of the previous twelve months.

Appearing to concede the UK did not lockdown fast enough, he said there was a lack of testing in Europe to fully understand just how quickly the virus had spread across the globe.

“At an early stage, we had much less of an understanding about how widespread the virus was in Europe.

“For exactly the same reason, because of the lack of testing in Europe and UK,” he told a Downing Street briefing.

“In retrospect we now know the amounts of importation that there were from Spain, from France and from bits of Italy that didn’t obviously have a problem, for example, but at the time we didn’t have that information and that would have almost certainly have led to slightly different approaches to how we did things.”

He said the true extent of the virus in Britain wasn’t clear “until people started getting into hospital and dying”.

His comments echoed similar remarks made by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, who said better testing would have made a “big difference” in to the UK’s response to coronavirus.

Sir Patrick told the briefing: “The one thing that I think would have been really important earlier on is to have much better data on what was happening.

“And that would have required testing to be up and ready immediately and it would have required the ability to get that information into a source and to be able to see it.

“We simply didn’t have that at the beginning and it was very difficult to know the speed at which things were moving and therefore make decisions based on the real-time data which we can do now and that would’ve made a big difference.”

More to follow…

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