Asian countries with more recent experience of such diseases quickly put in place aggressive containment, testing and tracing strategies. But in Britain, the government’s scientific advisers advocated a far more gradual approach, mistakenly believing “that a new, unknown and rampant virus could be regulated in such a precise way,” the report said.
The lawmakers found that such decisions were the product of “groupthink” among top officials in Mr. Johnson’s government and its advisers, who relied on mathematical models to guide their response.
On Tuesday, the government defended its actions, saying they were guided by science, and reiterated its regret for the country’s suffering. “One can’t apply hindsight to the challenges that we faced,” Steve Barclay, a cabinet minister, told BBC Radio.
But in fact, early in the outbreak, infectious disease and public health experts pleaded with the British government to take stronger measures. It was only in late March 2020, with infections doubling every three days and the national health system at risk of being overwhelmed, that Mr. Johnson reversed course and ordered a full nationwide lockdown — a week to two weeks after France, Spain and Italy had done so.
“The loss of that time was to prove fatal to many,” the report said.
Mr. Johnson, who was hospitalized with Covid in April of 2020, has consistently faced opposition to pandemic restrictions from a large faction within his party.