Government took ‘right decisions at right time’, Robert Jenrick insists after UK Covid deaths pass 100,000

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick stressed there was “no textbook” in how to respond to a pandemic.

The UK on Tuesday passed the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus within 28 days of people testing positive, and has one of the worst coronavirus death rates in the world.

The Government has been accused of repeatedly being too slow in acting to combat the virus.

However, appearing on Sky News, Mr Jenrick said: “We took the decisions that we could at the time on the basis of the information that was available to us.

“We did everything that we could to protect people’s lives and help to weather the storm and take the country through this very challenging period.

“There is no textbook as to how to respond to a pandemic like this but we do believe that we took the right decisions at the right time and now our focus is on continuing to help the country through the remaining stages of the pandemic and focus on the vaccine roll-out for which the news is good and the UK’s record holds up extremely well internationally.”

Grilled on whether the right action was taken to protect care homes, in which there were 30,000 “excess deaths” by last summer, Mr Jenrick added: “At every stage of the virus, we have tried to take the best decsions on the available evidence.

“There were no easy answers to any of the questions that you are posing.”

With the death toll already above 100,000 and scientists predicting it could rise by a further 50,000, Mr Jenrick also emphasised:“Every single one of those lives is an individual tragedy, there’s family and friends behind each one.

“We send our deepest condolences to them, it’s hards to believe what the whole country has been through over the course of last year but some people have been impacted very profoundly indeed.”

Boris Johnson on Tuesday said he took “full responsibility” for the response to the pandemic, adding “we did everything we could” to minimise suffering and Mr Jenrick was repeating this view on Wednesday.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re roughly 12 months on from the first case being identified in the United Kingdom, to think that we’ve lost 100,000 people in the past 12 months is horrendous.

“We talk about statistics but every individual would have had families, friends, who are grieving and will be grieving particularly today I suspect, and of course within that cohort of people we’ve lost thousands who were in care homes and I’m afraid were left exposed and unprotected.”

He added: “It’s just horrendous on every front… I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I just do not believe that Boris Johnson did everything we could, I just can’t accept that.”

Professor Calum Semple, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), predicted there could be another 50,000 deaths from coronavirus, and warned that every Covid fatality “represents probably four or five people who survive but are damaged” by the disease.

“It would really not surprise me if we’re looking at another 40-50,000 deaths before this burns out,” he told BBC Two’s Newsnight programme.

In March, before the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty braced the country for “a lot more deaths over the next few weeks before the effects of the vaccines begin to be felt” and cautioned against relaxing restrictions “too early”.


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