HOUSING Secretary Robert Jenrick has defended the UK’s 100,000 death toll and vowed “we took the right action at the right time”.
It follows Boris Johnson said he was “deeply sorry” for each life lost, saying he took “full responsibility” for the Government’s decisions in the pandemic.
Mr Jenrick said this morning there will be a time to look a “lessons learned”, but insisted now was not that moment, saying the Government had done everything it could to protect the country during the pandemic.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, the Housing Secretary said ministers had done “all we possibly could to shield people and to help the country through this period.”
When asked if some of the deaths could have been avoided, Mr Jenrick said: “I’m sure that we could or would have done some things differently with the benefit of hindsight, almost certainly. But there wasn’t a textbook.”
He added: “I can give you this assurance, that on each occasion they took the best possible scientific and medical advice, they took their responsibilities extremely seriously.”
And he said he was “proud” of how the Government has “looked after the most vulnerable in society like the homeless and the shielded”.
It comes as:
And speaking to Sky News, Mr Jenrick lashed out at suggestions the PM had failed to admit mistakes had been made.
“The Prime Minister said he takes personal responsibility for the steps that have been taken, nobody has worked harder than the Prime Minister.
“He’s worked extremely hard to guide the country through the pandemic, but there were no easy answers.”
Mr Jenrick shifted the blame onto the new super-contagious variant of coronavirus, stressing the Government took “very fast” action once the full extent of its transmissibility was discovered.
The Sun says
OUR Covid death toll will, sadly, far exceed even yesterday’s grim 100,000 milestone.
More than a thousand lose the battle each day — and will do so for another week or two. Even then, daily totals will linger in the hundreds. Our hearts go out to the families of each one.
What went wrong? In hindsight the Government and its top scientists and medics were all too slow to approve more drastic action a year ago. Later we were hit by our more infectious variant.
Other factors made matters far worse.
We are a densely-populated country with a weight problem — plus a major international travel hub.
But while so far we appear to have fared worse than others, it can only be properly judged once our vaccine programme is assessed against those abroad.
The current blame game is absurd. So are politicians’ fatuous demands for an immediate public inquiry, as if all the key figures have ample spare time.
Opposition MPs are gagging for a televised show trial they can profit from.
But the time to learn lessons for future pandemics is once this one is beaten.
Making international comparisons was “difficult”, Mr Jenrick said, when asked about the UK having the fifth worst death toll in the world after Mexico, Brazil, India and the United States.
“I think these comparisons are difficult to make at the present time,” he told Sky News.
“There will come a time when we can reflect on what has happened, when we can and should learn lessons, but I think it is difficult to do so at this distance.”
But he admitted: “No doubt there will be some things that we could have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.”
It comes after the PM’s sombre address last night, where he said the huge death toll “exhausts the thesaurus of misery” and represents “an appalling and tragic loss of life”.
Mr Johnson said: “It’s hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic – the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended, and for so many relatives the missed chance even to say goodbye.
“I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one: fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and the many grandparents who have been taken.
“To all those who grieve, we make this pledge: that when we come through this crisis we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others.”