The Daily Telegraph

Hindsight may have altered lockdown, says key civil servant

- By Sarah Knapton

THE cost of lockdown was “big”, the permanent secretary for the Department of Health has admitted, adding that he did not know if they would do it again “knowing what they know now”. Earlier this week, The Daily Telegraph revealed how Government department­s had forecast that more than 200,000 people could die through the impact of the shutdown, and protecting the NHS.

Sir Chris Wormald told the Commons science and technology select committee that policymake­rs had faced a difficult dilemma. “We were very clear there was a big cost, not just economical­ly but in health terms, to lockdown, and at the same time, lockdown is the answer to some of the issues,” he told MPS.

“That balancing act of when to time an interventi­on so you minimise the damage and maximise the gain … I am not going to say we got those balances right, and that we would do it again knowing what we know now.”

In April, experts from the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics, the government’s Actuary’s Department and the Home Office, published a projection of collateral damage from healthcare delays and the effects of recession arising from the pandemic response. They calculated up to 25,000 could die from delays to treatment in a six-month lockdown and a further 185,000 in the medium to long term.

Questioned about the report, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “We always knew the decisions you take to prevent deaths from Covid, of course, have other consequenc­es and that is one of the balancing factors that you have to take into account. But the decisions we took were absolutely the right ones.”

Mr Hancock also said he was not ruling out a second national lockdown, even though the Prime Minister this week told The Sunday Telegraph he considers it the final “nuclear” option.

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