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Sage documents show how scientists felt sidelined by economic considerations

Sage documents show how scientists felt sidelined by economic considerations

The government’s Sage committee of scientific experts urged ministers to impose a circuit breaker lockdown on 21 September, documents have shown.



Boris Johnson in a suit and tie: Photograph: Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images


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Photograph: Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images

What is unusual about these Sage documents?

The timing of their release, for a start. In the interests of transparency (in response to pressure) the government has been releasing Sage minutes around lunchtime on a Friday for many months. These documents were published at 8.20pm on a Monday, within an hour of the prime minister’s press conference in which he described the new three-tier system of restrictions on areas with high numbers of Covid infections. That makes them look very like a dissenting opinion.

What do they say?

The minutes of the Sage meeting on 21 September show the experts wanted a dramatic increase in restrictions across the country to check the alarming rise in infections, warning at that point that the number of cases was doubling every seven days and hospitalisations had begun to increase. A package of measures was needed, they said, to include:

• a “circuit-breaker” lockdown of a couple of weeks.

• advice to work from home for all who could.

• a ban on household mixing in homes.

Video: Government ‘ignored scientists’ advice’ on lockdown last month (PA Media)

Government ‘ignored scientists’ advice’ on lockdown last month

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• closure of all bars, cafes, restaurants, indoor gyms and personal services such as hairdressers.

• all university and college teaching to be online.

Were they concerned about the impact on people’s lives of more draconian measures?

Yes. They said they would all have costs in terms of health and wellbeing and many would have most impact on the poorest. Measures would be needed to mitigate this, and some could be brought in

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