The UK government rejected the urgent warnings of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), it has been revealed.
According to documents released on 12 October, the group called for a raft of measures three weeks ago to prevent “a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences.”
The experts recommended an immediate “circuit breaker” lockdown at a meeting on 21 September, in order to prevent the number of cases growing exponentially.
What did SAGE recommend?
The scientists also advocated for a ban on mixing between households indoors; closing all bars, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and gyms; moving all university and college teaching online; and urging people to work from home if possible.
The only measure which was adopted by the government following these SAGE recommendations was the request that people work from home.
The newly released documents cast doubt on the scientific backing for the recent 10pm curfew measure, with notes suggesting that curfews were “likely to have a marginal impact. Low confidence.”
SAGE recommended that ministers act fast, saying “the more rapidly interventions are put in place, and the more stringent they are, the faster the reduction in incidence and prevalence and the greater the reduction in Covid-related deaths.”
They added, “Both local and national measures are needed; measures should not be applied in too specific a geographical area.”
Despite these recommendations coming three weeks ago, the next major policy steps taken by the Prime Minister came yesterday (12 Oct), with the launch of a localised three tier system of restrictions.
According to the documents, SAGE scientists voiced significant concerns over the government’s £12 billion flagship Test and Trace system.
They said, “The low levels of engagement with the system coupled with testing delays and likely poor rates of adherence with self-isolation suggests that this system is having a marginal impact on transmission at the moment.”
What is being done instead?
The revelations come from official documents which were released shortly after Boris Johnson announced a three tier system of local restrictions last night.
The Prime Minister appeared alongside Chief Medical officer Chris Whitty, who seemed to suggest that he does not think the new measures will be enough to control the virus in the UK’s most at-risk areas without further intervention.
He said, “I am not confident - and nor is anybody confident - that the tier three proposals for the highest rates, if we did the absolute base case and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it.”