Experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) reportedly warned Boris Johnson over his Christmas plans and the threat to schools before the ‘inevitable’ lockdown.
Ministers were urged to shut down schools two weeks ago due to spiking coronavirus cases, according to minutes from a SAGE meeting.
On December 22, the advisory board told the Prime Minister it was ‘highly unlikely’ that allowing kids back to school would keep the R number below one.
This warning came after the emergence of the new highly infectious strain of Covid-19.
However Mr Johnson was still defending reopening schools on Sunday, before he finally relented and announced a national lockdown the next evening.
The Prime Minister’s decision to allow millions of people in England to mix with each other on Christmas Day also worried SAGE.
The group had warned that ‘any relaxation’ of measures over the festive period would result in a spike in infections ‘potentially by a large amount’, Sky News reports.
This ominous warning came just a month before Mr Johnson said on December 19 that three households could gather on Christmas Day – apart from those in Tier 4 areas.
SAGE member Prof Calum Semple said the latest shutdown was ‘inevitable’ after this decision and the emergence of the new strain.
He told Sky News: “We’re only now seeing the start of the price we have to pay for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mixing.
“With that and the new variant it was inevitable we were going to have to hit a hard lockdown at this stage.”
In November, the experts even anticipated that the prevalence of Covid-19 could ‘easily double’ if there was ‘substantial mixing’ over Christmas.
Dr Julian W Tang, clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, said the UK’s dire situation could not be solely blamed on the new virus strain.
He said a lockdown after Christmas and the New Year was no surprise due to predictions that people would try to mingle over the festive period.