Nigel Farage blasts Covid inquiry as an 'absolute joke'
Pandemic lockdowns “damaged a generation”, a top doctor who was once the UK Government’s most senior medical advisor has told the Covid Inquiry.
And former Chancellor George Osborne said he believed that the Boris Johnson government copied the example set by the authoritarian regime in Beijing. He told the inquiry the prospect of a lockdown had never been considered by Government when he was in power, between 2010 and 2016.
Dame Sally Davies, who was England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) between 2010 and 2019 and is now master of Trinity College, Cambridge, gave evidence to the inquiry’s lead counsel, Hugo Keith KC, on Tuesday. She said she had seen “the damage” lockdowns had done to children – and that was “awful” to see “these young people struggle”.
Answering questions relating to the UK’s pandemic planning and preparedness, she said it was “clear” that “no-one thought about lockdown”.
She added: “We’ve got to remember we have a limited amount of money and limited people, both in the policy space and in the delivery space, whether it’s the NHS or public health. And so we also have to listen with respect to some of our academic colleagues who come up with things and say, but what is the risk of that happening? Is that something that we need to do a special plan for? Or can we amend a plan?
“It’s clear that no-one thought about lockdown. I still think we should have locked down, although a week earlier. But during that we should have thought do we need to further?”
Then-prime minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic on March 23 2020.
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Dame Sally added: “The damage I now see to children and students from Covid, and the educational impact, tells me that education has a terrific amount of work to do. We have damaged a generation and it is awful as head of a college in Cambridge watching these young people struggle.
“I know in pre-schools they haven’t learned how to socialise and play properly, they haven’t learned how to read at school. We must have plans for them.”
During her testimony, Dame Sally also apologised to bereaved families affected by Covid-19. Becoming emotional, she said: “Maybe this is the moment to say how sorry I am to the relatives who lost their families. It wasn’t just the deaths, it was the way they died. It was horrible.”
Meanwhile, former Chancellor George Osborne said: “I think the Chinese lockdown is what gives the rest of the world the idea of a lockdown, and it’s the overwhelming of the hospital system in northern Italy that leads all Western governments to reach basically the same conclusion.”
However, ejected claims his austerity programme while chancellor depleted the NHS as he suggested his cuts better prepared Britain to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The Conservative former MP “completely” disputed the allegations at the official UK Covid-19 Inquiry from medics and unions that his cuts left health and social care in a “parlous state”.
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Mr Osborne argued that the UK may not have had the financial scope to spend vast amounts to support the public through the crisis without austerity. However, he conceded that his Treasury should have planned economic measures such as the furlough scheme needed in the pandemic.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has argued that the “political choice” of austerity under prime minister David Cameron left the UK “hugely exposed to the pandemic”. And the British Medical Association has claimed the cuts put the nation “severely on the back foot” as the first phase of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry examines whether proper preparations were made.
Mr Osborne argued that it was key to ensure that the economy after the “massive economic shock” of the 2008 financial crisis was able to “flex in a crisis”.
Inquiry barrister Kate Blackwell KC asked: “Do you agree, by the time Covid-19 hit the consequences of austerity were a depleted health and social care capacity and rising inequality in the UK?”
Mr Osborne replied: “Most certainly not, I completely reject that.
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