MATT HANCOCK has denied lives would have been saved if Britain had gone into lockdown sooner.
The health secretary spoke out after a leading scientist said on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that the nation ‘should have gone into lockdown earlier’, even though it ‘would have been hard to do’.
Prof John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), said: ‘I think the data that we were dealing with in the early part of March and our kind of situational awareness was really quite poor. So it would have been very hard to pull the trigger at that point.
‘But I wish we had — I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. I think that has cost a lot of lives, unfortunately.’
Asked if he agreed with the professor’s comments, Mr Hancock replied: ‘No. I think we took the right decisions at the right time.
‘And there’s a broad range on Sage of scientific opinion, and we were guided by the science — which means guided by the balance of that opinion — as expressed to ministers through the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser. That’s the right way for it to have been done.’
Pressed by the TV presenter if he was ‘sure’ the timing of lockdown had not cost lives, he said: ‘I am sure.’
Marr also challenged Mr Hancock over whether he was ‘very proud’ of the UK death toll, echoing the words used by Boris Johnson last week to describe his government’s handling of the pandemic.
The health secretary replied: ‘I’m very proud of the work my team have done.’
Meanwhile, on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Mr Hancock insisted the UK was ‘winning the battle’ against coronavirus. He said: ‘Sadly, there are still people dying but the number of people dying each day is also falling… the number of people admitted to hospital is falling… the number of people in hospital is falling.’
He dismissed as ‘not true’ comments by the UK statistics authority that testing figures were designed to show the largest possible number of tests. He said: ‘What we chose, advised by my permanent secretary, are the most accurate ways to show the testing that the government is doing, which is the number of tests either directly administered or sent out.’
And he sought to play down reports of a conflict between the economy and health, adding: ‘The worst thing for the economy would be a second spike.’
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