Sir David King does not hide his disdain for the British government’s “incoherent” and “dangerous” response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s former chief scientist has warned a second outbreak, particularly in London, is now inevitable and the UK death toll could soar as high as 200,000.
In an interview with 7.30, Sir David, who is also an emeritus professor in physical chemistry at the University of Cambridge, slammed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to dump the “Stay at Home” message and replace it with “Stay Alert”.
“‘Stay Alert’ is an incredible piece of so-called advice, because nobody knows exactly what it means,” Sir David told 7.30.
“I believe the government has all along behaved in a way that is irresponsible and dangerous, incoherent. We have had no coherence in policy.”
The British government says it is following the advice of its scientific advisory group, known as SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).
But Sir David is appalled by the government’s refusal to publicly release that advice and has established his own group of eminent scientists.
He argues the change in message from Mr Johnson a fortnight ago will result in a second peak in around two weeks’ time and inevitably lead to another full lockdown in the UK.
The government’s official death toll in the UK is now more than 35,000, but it is widely accepted the real figure is higher.
“The best estimate for the number of deaths in Britain is now over 50,000,” Sir David said.
“So there’s a measure of the sheer incoherence, all the way through, of how the government has attempted to manage, or not manage, this epidemic in Britain.
“I don’t have faith in what they’re doing, so I’m afraid it could hit 100,000, 200,000 or more,” he said of the number of people who could ultimately lose their lives to the virus in the UK.
‘We said our goodbyes’
Alan Dennison came very close to adding to the toll.
The 59-year-old knew his life hung in the balance when in March a doctor told him he was being transferred to intensive care and asked if he would like to be resuscitated.
He thinks he contracted COVID-19 in Spain, where he had travelled from his home in Wales for a buck’s weekend for his soon-to-be son-in-law.
He told the doctors to do whatever they could to keep him alive.
Before being placed in an induced coma and on a ventilator, he rang his wife of 38 years, Mandy.
“We [were] sort of in a flood of tears, said our goodbyes. Basically that’s all we could say,” Mr Dennison told 7.30.
“And the last words in my head before going down, were the words, ‘You fight this with everything you’ve got, as hard as you can’.”
Doctors gave him little chance of survival when his organs began to fail a few days later.
Mandy Dennison recalled how each day she would ask the ICU staff to whisper in her husband’s ear, “Fight, fight, fight”.
The retired nurse described how a friend who worked at the Withybush General Hospital in Wales, where Mr Dennison lay dying, would stand outside the intensive care ward for a few moments each day.
“Not that Alan could hear her, but she [the nurse] used to stand there and say, ‘Fight, fight, fight, Alan Dennison. Your wife is waiting for you. Fight, fight, fight’,” she said.
Doctors dubbed him the “miracle man” when he opened his eyes on the eighth day in intensive care, having fought the battle against COVID-19 and won.
Now recovering at home in Milford Haven, he cries as he recounts the physical and mental trauma associated with the virus and said he is deeply opposed to Boris Johnson’s decision to loosen the lockdown restrictions in neighbouring England.
“I’m convinced that my lungs are going to take an awful long time to get together. My heart – I do believe it will have an effect on my heart. Who knows, it might knock five years off my life, it might knock 10,” he said.