Coronavirus: UK minister suggests other countries’ strategies are based on ‘populism’ not science

A minister has defended the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic – and suggested the response from other countries has not been based on the scientific evidence.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Downing Street’s response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was fuelled by a “real desire to be driven by the evidence and by the science”.

As it stands, there are 1,373 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK, with 35 deaths linked to the virus.

The UK has yet to implement stringent restrictions seen in countries like Italy and the United States, which include shutting businesses and putting regions into lockdown.

“We are just being entirely science-led, we’re not doing the things that are happening elsewhere just because it seems like a popularist [sic] thing to do,” Mr Shapps said.

“We want to know that the scientists back it. That’s the hallmark of this country’s response.”

He added that the government would ramp up its coronavirus response and implement further measures “at the appropriate time”.

An announcement of further action could come as early as this afternoon.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency committee later.

It will consider whether to activate measures like banning mass gatherings and lengthy household isolation for the elderly.

The PM will then address the nation in the first of what will be daily media conferences to keep the public informed about the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes amid criticism that the government is not being sufficiently transparent about its handling of the crisis.

At the weekend, it emerged via a report from ITV political editor Robert Peston that elderly people will soon be told to isolate at home for four months.

Critics have queried why such an announcement was not first made by the PM or Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

But Mr Shapps denied suggestions the government was not being upfront with the public.

“That’s just not true,” he said.

“If you look at the action plan, which was published at the beginning of this, it’s literally written in there. It’s just not true, that accusation.

“I would say it’s useful, before we’re asking over 70s to isolate… it’s practical and helpful to know what’s coming down the line.

“That’s why it was written in the action plan itself, in order that they can get themselves prepared.”

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