A former director of public health in Cumbria has written a book about the UK Government’s handling of the pandemic – and claimed that up to 30,000 deaths could have been avoided.

Professor John Ashton’s book – entitled Blinded by Corona – is an uncompromisingly brutal critique of Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid-19 health crisis. Government ministers have repeatedly insisted that their policies throughout the crisis have been guided by sound scientific advice.

Professor Ashton said there has been a consistent failure on the part of Government to grasp that localised decision-making and an enhanced capacity for testing and tracing the contacts of those infected is the most efficient way to beat Covid-19.

He said: “The Government has been constantly manipulating the statistics on coronavirus.

“I believe the real number of deaths is between 60,000 and 70,000 and if things had been done differently perhaps 30,000 of those people could have been saved. It would not surprise me if we were at the stage of having hundreds of deaths per day by the second week in October.”

Professor Ashton said schools were already spreading the virus and universities were also beginning to act as vehicles for transmitting infection. He called on the Government to reject its “obsession” with the private sector in efforts to run test and trace and instead hand over more control to public health experts.

He accused the Government of lacking imagination in its approach and urged ministers to involve local authorities more extensively in test and trace operations. Other initiatives could include mobilising universities to make full use of the labs for testing and drafting unemployed graduates into teaching.

Asked whether his criticism of the Government was too harsh, he said: “It’s justified on the grounds that when confronted by something this extraordinary many other countries have done better than us. The big problem here was the failure of the Prime Minister to get to grips with it in February. It’s meant we have been running to catch up every since.”

Addressing the nation this week, Mr Johnson refused to rule out a second Covid-19 lockdown. He urged people to summon their resolve for a tough winter ahead, saying the UK is at a “perilous turning point” and "must act.” He reiterated the need for social distancing, hygiene and face coverings.