Boris Johnson has reportedly admitted he was too slow putting the UK into lockdown a year ago.
The Prime Minister is said to have told allies it was a mistake to delay the move, with experts saying tens of thousands of deaths could have been prevented.
The UK now has the fifth-highest Covid death toll in the world after repeated indecision by the PM and ministers throughout the pandemic.
If he had his time again, sources close to the Prime Minister told The Telegraph he would act “harder, earlier and faster”.
An insider said the government “lost weeks”, despite having an advance warning of the horrors of the pandemic from European countries such as Italy.
Only the USA, Brazil, Mexico and India have lost more citizens than the UK to the virus, with the country’s official death toll standing at 125,516.
It is expected that the Prime Minister will appear in front of a public inquiry into his handling of the crisis, and may admit that his hesitancy proved deadly, the Telegraph reported last night.
On March 14 last year, it is claimed, the PM was shown evidence revealing that the NHS could be overwhelmed after three weeks.
Scientific advisers had earlier miscalculated how long this would take – but it took another nine days for Mr Johnson to make his historic lockdown announcement.
The PM was reportedly “stunned” to find out how dire the situation was, but still continued to dither.
It is claimed that decision makers will now hold their hands up to making a mistake.
One – who has not been identified – told The Telegraph: “With hindsight it’s unarguable that we should have gone into lockdown earlier.”
Advisors including Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance are likely to be criticised over decisions such as allowing the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead in March last year.
Sources claim that Mr Johnson has learned from his mistakes.
One said: “Ordinarily the impulse, when you’re taking decisions that have big financial implications, would be to take time, and even in the autumn it was still a case of trying to balance the economic and the health aspects of lockdown.”
But they continued: “He now takes decisions very quickly, and will say ‘if we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly and quickly’.”
Ministers reportedly feared that lockdowns would trigger riots as they were unsure if the public would accept restrictions.
But dire projections claimed that up to 830,000 people could die in the first seven weeks of the pandemic.
This was later lowered, but experts feared a further 100,000 deaths could be recorded every year if Covid was not defeated.