The federal government has printed a prolonged rebuttal to a damning newspaper article that claimed the UK “misplaced an important 5 weeks” to deal with the risk posed by the coronavirus.
In an uncommon transfer, the Division of Well being picked aside allegations made in The Sunday Occasions one after the other – describing parts of its investigation as “plainly unfaithful” and “ridiculous”.
The article had claimed that Boris Johnson missed 5 key COBRA conferences because the COVID-19 disaster gathered tempo, with authorities whistleblowers and scientists alleging there was complacency on the coronary heart of presidency in late January and February.
These claims have been fiercely rejected, with Downing Road insisting the UK “was taking motion and dealing to enhance its preparedness from early January”.
Officers stated it’s “solely regular and correct” for COBRA conferences to be chaired by somebody apart from the prime minister – relatively than “uncommon” as The Sunday Occasions recommended.
And allegations that Quantity 10 displayed an “virtually nonchalant angle” in the direction of coronavirus had been dismissed as “improper”.
The federal government additionally took problem with an excerpt of the newspaper report that stated “the virus had sneaked into our airports, our trains, our workplaces and our properties” by the point Mr Johnson chaired a COBRA assembly on 2 March.
“This virus has hit international locations world wide,” the Division of Well being stated. “It’s ridiculous to counsel that coronavirus solely reached the UK as a result of the well being secretary and never the PM chaired a COBRA assembly.”
Elsewhere within the rebuttal – which is over 2,000 phrases lengthy – the federal government defended sending 279,000 objects of non-public protecting tools to China.
“The tools was not from the pandemic stockpile,” it stated. “We offered this tools on the top of their want and China has since reciprocated our donation many occasions over.
“Between 2 April and 15 April, we’ve acquired over 12 million items of PPE within the UK from China.”
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And the newspaper’s declare that classes weren’t discovered from a pandemic rehearsal in 2016 had been additionally dismissed by the Division of Well being, which stated it had been “extraordinarily proactive” in implementing suggestions.
The emphatic denials got here hours after Cupboard Workplace minister Michael Gove stated it was “grotesque” to counsel that the prime minister had skipped conferences “that had been very important to our response to the coronavirus”.
He advised Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I believe that anybody who thought of what occurred to the prime minister not way back, no one can say the prime minister is not throwing coronary heart and soul into combating this virus.”
Regardless of Mr Gove’s dismissal of The Sunday Occasions report, shadow well being secretary Jonathan Ashworth stated the investigation “means that early on he was lacking in motion”.
He advised Ridge: “There are severe questions as to why the Prime Minister skipped 5 COBRA conferences all through February, when the entire world may see how severe this was turning into.
“And we all know that severe errors have been made, we all know that our frontline NHS employees haven’t got the PPE, that they have been advised this weekend that they will not essentially have the robes that are very important to maintain them secure. We all know that our testing capability just isn’t on the degree that’s wanted.
“We all know that the ventilators that many hospitals have acquired are the improper forms of ventilators and there are large questions as as to whether we went into this lockdown too slowly, and now we hear the Prime Minister missed 5 conferences firstly of this outbreak.”