'Thousands of lives would have been saved' had PM imposed England Covid-19 lockdown when advised, expert says

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan

A scientist advising the government's Covid response has said "thousands of lives" would have been saved had Boris Johnson imposed England's Covid-19 lockdown when experts recommended it in September.

Professor Andrew Hayward said following the advice would also have "inflicted substantially less damage" to the economy than the new lockdown to be imposed on Thursday.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommended on September 21 that a two-week "circuit-breaker" lockdown was needed.

Already confusion is growing around the end date of the new lockdown, with the prime minister expected to tell MPs on Monday he will "seek to ease restrictions" on December 2 despite Michael Gove admitting the measures could last more than four weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on the latest coronavirus lockdown Credit: PA Images

There is anger over the severity of the restrictions, the length they will be needed for and over the delay to imposing them.

Prof Hayward, who sits on the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which works with Sage, acknowledged "we can’t turn back the clock" on imposing restrictions.

"I think if we had chosen a two-week circuit-break at that time, we would definitely have saved thousands of lives," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

"We would clearly have inflicted substantially less damage on our economy than the proposed four-week lockdown will do."

ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia has the latest on the new rules:

Chancellor Rishi Sunak meanwhile has said it is his "expectation and firm hope" that England will exit the second shutdown on December 2 - but ministers are unable to guarantee that.

Mr Sunak said that he appreciated "everyone’s frustration" but assured MPs that the lockdown will "as a matter of law" expire on December 2.

"Our expectation and firm hope is, on the basis of everything we know today, is the measures we put in place for the time they are going to be put in place for will be sufficient to do the job we need.

"And we will seek to exit these restrictions back into a tiered approach at the end of the four-week period," he told the Today programme.

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has the latest from Westminster:

The chancellor, who has extended the furlough scheme throughout the second lockdown, also said there would be an increase in support in grants for the self-employed.

He said "directionally of travel" they will increase from 40% of profits but said the full details would be announced in Parliament by Mr Johnson.

The PM pulled out of a speech to business leaders at the CBI conference and will instead address MPs over the lockdown.

Under the measures pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail will all close - while schools, colleges and nurseries can stay open.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set aside millions in support for those struggling due to coronavirus. Credit: HMT

People will also be allowed to exercise and socialise in outdoor public spaces with their household or one other person.

Facing growing unrest on the Tory backbenches, Mr Johnson is expected to tell the Commons: "Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

"Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

"At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday, December 2, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends."

Royal Marines from 42 Commando Royal Marines, Plymouth, helping to conduct tests for Covid-19. Credit: Corporal Anil Gurung/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA

MPs will debate and vote on the new measures on Wednesday but any Conservative rebellion is likely to be only symbolic with Labour poised to back the government on the measures.

But opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned of a "very human cost" to the PM's delay in imposing the lockdown after Labour called for the circuit-breaker last month.

Conservative former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against the regulations because the "‘lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid".

While Sir Graham Brady, the influential chair of Tory backbenchers' 1922 Committee, said: "If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world, we would be denouncing it as a form of evil."