Boris Johnson accepts it was a mistake to delay the start of the first national lockdown, close allies have said, while insisting the Prime Minister was let down by scientific advisers. Johnson would act “harder, earlier and faster” if he had his time again.
As the first anniversary of lockdown approaches, Johnson has rightly won plaudits for the runaway success of Britain’s vaccine rollout, but knows he will eventually have to confront the question of why the UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world.
The Telegraph has learnt that the pivotal moment in imposing lockdown came on March 14 last year – nine days before lockdown started – when Mr Johnson was shown evidence that ministers and scientific advisers had badly miscalculated how quickly the NHS would be overwhelmed.
The Prime Minister was “stunned” to be told by a Number 10 data analyst at a hurriedly-convened Saturday meeting that his policy was not working and that hospitals were as little as three weeks away from being past capacity.
这是3月8日在英国伦敦拍摄的空荡荡的考文特花园。英国政府8日发布的数据显示，该国当天新增新冠确诊病例4712例。新华社记者 韩岩 摄 图源：新华网
Mr Johnson had, until then, been making decisions based on out-of-date projections provided by Government departments. But he waited until March 23 to issue his “stay at home” order, a decision which scientists have claimed doubled the death toll in the first wave.
"Our priority had always been to make sure the NHS could cope," said another insider, "but the new analysis showed Covid wasn't going to just pass that line on the graph, it was going to really smash through it." The Prime Minister did not, however, fully lock the country down straight away. The following Monday, Sage toughened its stance, saying “there is clear evidence to support additional social distancing measures being introduced as soon as possible”.
3月8日，在英国伦敦关闭的店铺旁放置着提醒人们保持社交距离的标识。 新华社记者 韩岩 摄 图源：新华网
Dominic Cummings is understood to have recommended that the country go into lockdown by March 20, but again Mr Johnson put off the decision. On March 19 public support for lockdown leapt up when television footage showed bodies being driven out of Bergamo in Italy in military trucks because the local crematorium could not cope with the numbers of dead.
The death toll had leapt threefold to 335, with 6,650 cases. Mr Johnson decided he could delay no longer.
A third wave of the Covid pandemic is now advancing swiftly across much of Europe. As a result, many nations – bogged down by sluggish vaccination campaigns – are witnessing sharp rises in infection rates and numbers of cases. Several countries are now set to impose strict new lockdown measures in the next few days.