Number 10 could have saved 'thousands of lives' if it followed SAGE advice, ...

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London, said he had a 'high degree of certainty' thousands of unnecessary Covid-19 deaths would occur as a consequence of not imposing a circuit breaker lockdown

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London, said he had a 'high degree of certainty' thousands of unnecessary Covid-19 deaths would occur as a consequence of not imposing a circuit breaker lockdown 

Thousands of coronavirus deaths in the coming weeks could have been prevented if ministers bowed to pressure for a circuit-breaker last month, a Government adviser claimed today.

SAGE - Number 10's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - first started banging the drum about a harsh two-week shutdown on September 21. 

There were just 11 daily deaths on that date, whereas there are about 230 occurring on average every day now.  

But Downing Street ruled against it for fear it would shatter the already-crippled economy, instead opting for the much less restrictive three-tiered localised lockdown system.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London, said he had a 'high degree of certainty' thousands of unnecessary Covid-19 deaths would occur as a consequence.

The SAGE member - who attended the September 21 meeting - told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning: 'We know very clearly that the earlier that you do that the more lives you will save.

'So the actions that we take now affect really the deaths that we see in three weeks or a month's time and beyond. So early action is essential, and waiting to see if less intense measures are going to work is really quite a dangerous way of doing things. 

'I think if we had chosen a two-week circuit-break at that time we would definitely have saved thousands of lives. And, we would clearly have inflicted substantially less damage on our economy than the proposed four-week lockdown will do.'   

Professor Hayward argued a circuit breaker — a form of which has been used in Scotland and Wales to curb rising cases — would also have caused less damage to the fragile economy than the four-week lockdown outlined by Boris Johnson on Saturday night. 

After weeks of mocking Labour's calls for a national lockdown, the PM completed an humiliating U-turn by announcing blanket coronavirus restrictions for England at a prime-time press conference that kicked off at 6.30pm.

The tough action was prompted by dire warnings by his chief scientific and medical advisers that the NHS could be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

They said every hospital in England was on track to be overwhelmed by mid-December and projected thousands of deaths every day by then. 

Wales will follow a 'basic set of national restrictions' when the country emerges from its 17-day lockdown, First Minister Mark Drakeford has revealed

Wales will follow a 'basic set of national restrictions' when the country emerges from its 17-day lockdown, First Minister Mark Drakeford has revealed

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford boasts 'life will resume' with schools, gyms, shops and churches back open on November 9 thanks to his 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown 

Wales will follow a 'basic set of national restrictions' when the country emerges from its 17-day lockdown, First Minister Mark Drakeford has revealed.   

The country's stringent 'firebreak' ends on November 9 and will see non-essential shops, gyms, schools and places of worship reopen.

Mr Drakeford, who will front a coronavirus briefing this afternoon, said people would be urged to work from home but pre-firebreak life would largely be able to resume.

Yet he warned of a return to tougher measures if the public becomes too relaxed or tries to game the rules by pushing them to breaking point.

His lifting of restrictions next week will come four days into England's fresh nationwide lockdown and further underscore the different strategies being adopted across the Union.

The Labour First Minister called on people to ask themselves what contribution they could make to keep themselves and others safe to judge their actions 'against that criteria'. 

He told BBC Breakfast: 'If we do that then there is a way out of coronavirus that will safeguard us all.

'If we play it as a game in which your job is to think about what the rule is and see how far you can stretch it, then I'm afraid the weeks ahead will be very difficult indeed.'

He said how people behave would be 'crucial to giving us a path through to Christmas and beyond', but signs were so far encouraging. 

Mr Drakeford revealed 'early indications' show that travel in Wales over the firebreak has been much lower, which suggests people have been following the rules.

'As I said right at the beginning, it will be a couple of weeks beyond November 9 before we know whether this great national effort has

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