Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Science & Tech
  2. Coronavirus
22 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Sage scientist: Officials wanted earlier lockdown, but thought it would be politically unfeasible

By Samuel Horti

A senior scientist advising the government on coronavirus has said some government officials wanted to impose an early lockdown on the UK but did not do so for political reasons.

Professor Ian Boyd, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told the BBC that the UK should have acted “a week or two weeks earlier” than it did, which would have made “quite a big difference to the steepness of the curve and therefore the death rate”.

Some in government wanted to impose a lockdown earlier than 23 March, when restrictions were put in place, but did not do so because of their “political opinion” that it was not feasible, which showed a “failure of imagination” about what the British public were willing to accept.

“One could point the finger at ministers and politicians for not being willing to listen to scientific advice,” he said. “You could point the finger at the scientists for not being explicit enough. But at the end of the day all these things interact with public opinion as well.”

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs