The delayed imposition of the coronavirus lockdown led to a high death toll, a leading expert has said.
Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman said the government followed public opinion rather than shaped it in the early days of the outbreak, before announcing the lockdown restrictions on March 23. But Sir Lawrence, a leading expert in strategic studies, insisted the government achieved its objective of not having the NHS overwhelmed. However, the threat to care homes was not given enough attention.
In an article for Survival, the journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, he wrote in his assessment of the UK's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in March: "With government following rather than leading public opinion, a graduated approach was abandoned.
"The collective effort to suppress the spread of the coronavirus began before government announcements and had an effect before March 23.
"After March 23, the measures enjoyed wide public support and compliance was good.
"The government met its main target. The NHS was not overwhelmed. Yet the death toll is high. One reason for this, hard to quantify, was the delayed moving to lockdown. Another was simply that London is a global city and Europe's largest.
"But it is now clear that while preparing the NHS for an influx of cases, the threat to care homes was not only given insufficient attention, but even aggravated.
"The initial advice may have fitted the government's preference to avoid the social and economic costs of more stringent measures, but it is always the responsibility of ministers to interrogate advice and also to read movements in public opinion, in this case becoming anxious and impatient with half-measures."
Department of Health figures show that a total of 32,065 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Sunday, up by 210 from 31,855 the day before.
However, the number of deaths involving Covid-19 that have been registered across the UK currently stands at 33,021.
This includes 29,710 deaths that occurred in England and Wales up to April 24 - and which had been registered up to May - according to the Office for National Statistics.