Published: 19:04, 03 November 2020
| Updated: 19:06, 03 November 2020
Claims made by the country's most senior health officials that there could be as many as 4,000 coronavirus deaths a day by December have been questioned by MPs.
Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific advisor, were summoned to a meeting of the cross-party science Select Committee today to answer MPs’ questions.
There have been claims that the worst-case forecasts for infection rates presented at the Prime Minister’s press briefing on a second national lockdown were exaggerated.
The PM warned the NHS could be overwhelmed if there was not a second lockdown.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, who chairs the committee, asked if the predictions of infection rates had taken into account the effect of either the track and trace scheme or the separate measures to place some parts of the country into tiers.
He also raised the issue of claims that the NHS would be overwhelmed within weeks if no action was taken to implement a lockdown.
Responding, Professor Whitty said: "Putting exact dates on these things is almost impossible... neither I or Sir Patrick nor anyone who advises government would say 'this is definitely going to happen on this date.'"
Mr Clark asked if, in reaching their judgement about the lockdown, they had considered the impact on the economy.
“It is much more difficult to make these decisions and choices if the bottom line is people are going to be dying in hospital car parks,” the MP said.
Mr Whitty said: “We are choosing between bad choices and no-one should shy away from that and pretend it is not the case."
But despite being pressed by MPs, he would not be drawn on the question of whether an earlier lockdown would have saved lives.
"I am trying to give an answer that is helpful without falling into the trap of being a 'yes-no' thing... it's not a yes-no thing," he told the committee.
Sir Patrick said if the claims that there could be 4,000 deaths a day had caused unnecessary alarm he was regretful.
Sir Patrick told the Committee: "I positioned that as a scenario from a couple of weeks ago, based on an assumption to try and get a new reasonable worst-case scenario.”
The modelling was compiled on October 9, five days before new tier restrictions came into place.
Kent has seen another surge in cases, according to official figures.
In the last week of October, 1,863 new cases were recorded in Kent - 551 more than the previous week.
Kent saw another rise in cases with figures showing that
Between October 22 and October 28, 11 of Kent's 13 areas saw more cases leading to an overall increase of 42%.