Expert savages ’embarrassing’ Government on Question Time over coronavirus

The former Director of Public Health launched a withering attack on the Government's "embarrassing" handling of the coronavirus outbreak on Question Time.

Professor John Ashton told the audience in West Bromwich on Thursday that four or five weeks had been "lost" because the country had failed to get to grips with the deadly bug quickly enough.

He warned that the virus "was amongst us" and that now it would be left with the community to deal with.

Professor Ashton, Director of Public Health for six years said: "I don't know where to start really. I'm embarrassed by the situation in this country.

"This talk of four stages and we're now moving on from the containment thing – we've lost the plot here.

"We haven't taken the action we should have taken four or five weeks ago."

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Asking what should have been done by Question Time host Fiona Bruce, Professor Ashton said: " Boris Johnson should have convened Cobra at the outset when it became clear what was cooking up.

"Countries that took firm action at the time – if you look at what's happened in Hong Kong and Singapore, which had a lot of cases initially but which took firm action and they've got the thing under control.

"We've lost control here .

"Three thousands supporters came to Anfield from Madrid where they're playing football behind closed doors.

"The virus is around in Madrid. That virus has been shared around Merseyside last night in the bars and clubs."

The PM yesterday officially moved from the “contain” to “delay” phase of its attempts to battle against the pandemic – as the number of confirmed cases rose to 596.

There were two more deaths, bringing the number to 10.

But the professor slammed the apparent failure for the Government to properly deal with people coming back from areas that have significant outbreaks, like Italy, upon their return to the UK.

He said: "For reasons that are totally obscure to me, we've taken it as policy not to track the people who've come back from Italy, not to test the people who've come back from Italy so the virus will now be amongst us.

"The Government's approach as been paternalistic, it's been old fashioned, it's been top down and it's not done what needs to happen now – and we've lost four or five weeks."

When asked why the UK hadn't decided to shut down major sporting events like other countries have, Tory guest Steve Barclay defended the approach to the outbreak.

"The key to the advice we have in Government is it's about the timing of measures, and what is best suited to the country concerned.

"The approach, the advice we have is that it's about measures we take but it's also about what time we deploy that.

"So things like sporting events, we'll keep under review. But the advice in terms of the circumstances we face, the models that have been run, is that the time of the measures we take, that isn't the best course of action for the United Kingdom.

"Above all this is driven by scientific advice and the models that are informing Government policy and that is an approach being taken across the United Kingdom."

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