The government’s own scientists recommended implementing a short “circuit breaker” lockdown three weeks ago, it has emerged.
The plan was at the top of a shortlist of five coronavirus interventions recommended to the government last month by its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
The Sage document, dated 21 September, was released on Monday, just hours after prime minister Boris Johnson announced a three-tier lockdown for England.
As well as the circuit breaker, Sage advised that people work from home if they can – a measure which was later announced by the government.
Scientists also advised “banning all contact within the home with members of other households”, as well as the closure of all bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms, and personal services such as hairdressers.
The fifth and final measure on the list was transferring all university and college teaching online.
The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty were among the attendees of the 21 September Sage meeting, held via Zoom.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, said: “The revelations in this paper are alarming.
“The fact that the prime minister chose to publish it an hour after his press conference is yet more evidence that he is treating the British people with contempt.
“The government now needs to urgently explain why it ignored its own scientists and what it will be doing to get control of the virus.”