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PM, Whitty and Vallance reflect on what could have been done differently

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Coronavirus transmission from people with no symptoms, testing and spread of infection from Europe were all issues reflected on by the Prime Minister and his top medical and scientific advisers a year on from the first lockdown.

Boris Johnson said the “biggest false assumption” during the pandemic was over asymptomatic transmission and that no previous government had envisioned such a novel disease.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said better data and testing a year ago would have shown just how serious things were.

The trio, who appeared at the 145th Downing Street press conference since they began being held regularly last March, were all asked what they would have done differently in the past year.

Mr Johnson said: “In retrospect there are probably many things that we wish that we’d known and many things that we wish we’d done differently at the time, in retrospect, because we were fighting a novel disease under very different circumstances than any previous government had imagined.

“The single biggest false assumption that we made was about the potential for asymptomatic transmission and that did govern a lot of policy in the early days, or that misunderstanding about the reality of asymptomatic transmission certainly led to real problems that we then had to work very, very hard to make up ground.”

He said lessons will be learned for future pandemics, when asked whether the Government should have imposed lockdown sooner.

He said there had been “very hard decisions” to make with “no good outcomes either way”, adding that decisions had been taken “with the interest of the British people foremost in our hearts and in an effort to protect the public and prevent death and suffering”.

Sir Patrick said having adequate testing in place at the beginning of the pandemic would have made a “big difference”.

He said: “The one thing that I think would have been really important earlier on is to have much better data on what was happening.

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