‘Up to 50,000 unnecessary deaths’ in UK due to botched response, says top scientist

The UK faces up to 50,000 unnecessary deaths due to the Government’s botched handling of the crisis, where it “consciously allowed” coronavirus to spread, a former chief scientific adviser has said.

Sir David King, who was the Government’s top scientist from 2000-2007, said the shocking number of deaths was “unwarranted, a complete cock up by government”.

He said he founded the Independent SAGE group of experts to address the “complete mess” of the official response in early stages of the crisis.

“It’s going to turn out to be 40-50,000 unnecessary deaths in this country — unwarranted, a complete cock-up by government,” he told Red Pepper magazine.

Sir David accused the Government of supporting the controversial idea of herd immunity, when a large number of people catch the disease, allowing for a degree of immunity in the population.

Sir David King says up to 50,000 unnecessary deaths could occur from Covid-19

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has repeatedly said that herd immunity was never a part of the Government’s coronavirus response.

But Sir David said: “The prime minister believed in the herd immunity programme…The prime minister said, ‘We have to be prepared for losing some of our loved ones, every one of us has to be prepared.’

“So, there was that expectation. They consciously allowed the disease to spread.”

Sir David said he set up the rival body of scientists due to the secrecy surrounding the Government’s SAGE panel at the beginning of the crisis.

He said: “The government certainly didn’t want the public to know that [Dominic] Cummings was a member of the committee.

“You shouldn’t have an adviser to the prime minister, who is not a scientist, also there, because then you’ve got two sources of potentially conflicting advice.”

Sir David said trust in the Government has been eroded during the pandemic and blamed Boris Johnson for failing to “stick to the truth”.

He added: “It seems to me that he says what he thinks is convenient.”

His warning comes as the Prime Minister faced a backlash from his own party over a series of u-turns.

Senior Tory backbencher Charles Walker said it had become difficult for Conservative MPs to defend the Government due to the “climate of uncertainty”.

He the Observer: “Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for backbenchers now to promote and defend government policy as so often that policy is changed or abandoned without notice.

“Whether this approach is by design or by accident, the climate of uncertainty it creates is unsustainable and erodes morale.”

A new poll by Opinium put the Tories and Labour on level pegging at 40%.


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