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Chris Whitty has admitted that he has been feeling stifled by London and misses his friends and family. Speaking at an event to mark a year since the pandemic engulfed Britain, the chief medical officer said the lack of testing capacity in the first wave was the biggest issue he had faced. He claimed the inability to test large sections of the population had meant “we were essentially flying blind for large sections of time up until about late April”.
Professor Whitty also told the virtual event, hosted by the Royal College of Physicians, that he was looking forward to escaping the capital once lockdown eases.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing family and friends, I’ve not seen family and friends for a very long time like most people. “I’m really looking forward to getting out of London – I’m in London to work not because I wish to live in London and getting out to the hills in England and the mountains in Scotland, that’s a very distant, but very attractive dream.” Reflecting on the country’s response to the pandemic, he said health officials had made a mistake in thinking the virus could be contained by tracking only symptomatic people, when asymptomatic carriers were also fuelling the spread. “We were too slow off the mark, we said ‘this looks like SARS and with SARS there was almost no asymptomatic transmission’ – we learnt the wrong lessons from SARS,” he said. “Many of the things we got wrong in the first wave was not that the science was wrong or the plan was wrong, but that we were in different stages of the epidemic than we thought we were…the diagnostic capacity was probably the biggest issue.”