Coronavirus: Chief scientific adviser says government has learnt 'how to do it better next time'

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing in Downing Street. (Getty)

Boris Johnson’s chief scientific adviser has defended the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, arguing they have learnt “how to do it better next time”.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who chairs the government’s scientific advisory committeee Sage, said the group is “not an infallible body” and had offered the best possible advice to the prime minister throughout the pandemic.

However, he admitted that the recommendations produced by Sage “had not always been right”.

“Is the evidence usually crystal clear? No,” he wrote in The Sunday Telegraph. “And you only need to pick up a newspaper or watch the TV to see how strongly different scientists have presented diametrically opposed ideas, and how some have flipped from certainty to uncertainty and back again.”

People enjoying the good weather in Greenwich Park, south London, as the public are being reminded to practice social distancing following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions.

"In the years to come, when this awful disease is no longer shaping all of our lives, I know I will look back with gratitude and admiration for what these individual scientists did to help understanding and provide advice in the face of uncertainty.

“I also know that we will have learned a lot, including how to do it better next time. That is science.”   

It comes as the deputy chief medical officer warned Britain is facing a “very dangerous moment” with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam called for people to show restraint as shutdown measures are eased in England from Monday.

Van-Tam said scientific opinions "always vary to some extent", and told Saturday’s Downing Street press conference that the lockdown easing must go "painstakingly" slowly.

He added: "This is a dual responsibility here of government to go slowly and carefully and to take the advice from the scientists.

"Of the scientists, to watch this whole thing very closely over the next few weeks.

"And, of the public in general to actually follow the guidance.

"Don't tear the pants out of it, and don't go further than the guidance actually says."

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden defended the government’s lockdown plan on Saturday during the daily press briefing.

Asked for his response to experts who have expressed concern the lockdown is being eased too quickly in England, Dowden said it must be remembered there are more than 50 scientists in Sage "all of whom will have their different perspectives".

He told the daily briefing that scientists are "absolutely right to urge caution".

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