The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have "damaged a generation", former chief medical officer (CMO) Dame Sally Davies has told the UK COVID-19 Inquiry.
Dame Sally, who was CMO from 2010-2019 and is now Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, gave evidence to the inquiry's Lead Counsel, Hugo Keith KC, on Tuesday. Answering questions relating to the UK's pandemic planning and preparedness, she said it was "clear" that "no-one thought about lockdown".
She added: "We've got to remember we have a limited amount of money and limited people, both in the policy space and in the delivery space, whether it's the NHS or public health.
"And so we also have to listen with respect to some of our academic colleagues who come up with things and say, but what is the risk of that happening? Is that something that we need to do a special plan for? Or can we amend a plan?
"It's clear that no-one thought about lockdown. I still think we should have locked down, although a week earlier. But during that we should have thought do we need to further?"
'We Have Damaged a Generation'
Then-prime minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 23 2020.
Dame Sally added: "The damage I now see to children and students from COVID, and the educational impact, tells me that education has a terrific amount of work to do.
"We have damaged a generation and it is awful as head of a college in Cambridge watching these young people struggle.
"I know in pre-schools they haven't learned how to socialise and play properly, they haven't learned how to read at school. We must have plans for them."
During her testimony, Dame Sally also apologised to bereaved families affected by COVID-19.
Becoming emotional, she said: "Maybe this is the moment to say how sorry I am to the relatives who lost their families.
"It wasn't just the deaths, it was the way they died. It was horrible."
The COVID-19 Inquiry is an independent public inquiry set up to examine the UK’s response to and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and learn lessons for the future, according to its website.